The news was broken to staff at a meeting earlier today
The Irish operation of the Arcadia Group – whose other brands include Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Evans and Wallis – went into liquidation in November, after its UK parent group went into administration.
The collapse was blamed on both the pandemic and a progressive shift towards online retail.
Arcadia’s UK operation employed 13,000 staff in 444 stores via brands including Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Evans and Wallis.
Irish liquidators Deloitte had allowed the 14 stores in the Republic to continue trading over Christmas in order to maximise the value of stock.
However, since the Government re-imposed Level 5 restrictions forcing stores to close again, the workers have been laid off and claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
It had been hoped that a buyer could be found for the UK operation, and that this might hold out some hope of saving at least some of the Irish jobs.
However, with online retailer ASOS currently the preferred bidder in negotiations with the UK administrator, it looks increasingly likely that an online company will purchase the online elements, resulting in a pessimistic outlook for the “bricks and mortar” model of retail.
Sources close to the Irish liquidation said the decision to proceed with formalising the redundancies was due to fading hopes of finding a “bricks and mortar” purchaser for the operation.
There were also concerns that the current lockdown would proceed well beyond 5 March, making it impossible to trade.
They noted that the 30-day period of consultation with unions is over, and that redundancy notices will now be issued and processed in the normal way.
However, sources said there might be a “glimmer of hope” if the online bidders fell away and a traditional retailer re-entered the bidding.
They also noted that if the lockdown is eventually lifted, some staff could be re-hired on a temporary basis to sell off the stock still within the stores.
Mandate official Jonathan Hogan described today’s redundancies as a “milestone” in relation to high street retail.
He said that yet again, employees of household names were being laid off, with the prospect of online digital companies taking over traditional “bricks and mortar” retail.
He pledged that Mandate would continue its campaign for stricter legislation to boost workers’ redundancy rights in the context of a liquidation.
Mandate said there had been a 2014 collective agreement providing for enhanced redundancy payments of four weeks per year of service, inclusive of statutory redundancy.
However, it’s understood Deloitte has confirmed that the 490 former employees in Arcadia outlets will only get statutory redundancy of two weeks per year of service, capped at €600 per week.
A similar situation arose when Debenhams Irish operation went into liquidation last year.
There had been a 2016 collective agreement providing for four weeks pay per year of service, but liquidators KPMG said they could only pay statutory redundancy.
Since then, former Debenhams employees have been picketing the 11 stores preventing liquidators from removing stock and completing the liquidation.
A review of the Debenhams dispute by Labour Court Chair Kevin Foley found that the 2016 collective agreement had “no legal application” in the context of a liquidation.