This morning, the striking Debenhams workers occupied stores in Dublin and Cork. They did so after more than 150 days of campaigning for fair treatment from the company that has treated them in an appalling manner. The company, as the Taoiseach knows, simply shut up shop and left workers high and dry. Initially, they were left with only basic State supports and the prospect of statutory redundancy. I am sure the Taoiseach understands the anger and frustration of these workers at this time. The liquidator, KPMG, has now withdrawn the offer it proposed to the workers. This is a very provocative action, especially when we consider the duration of this dispute and everything the workers have been through.
I have raised the issue of the Debenhams workers with the Taoiseach previously. On that occasion I asked him to act immediately to intervene in support of the workers and to legislate so that this disgraceful scenario can never happen again to another worker. At that time, the Taoiseach said he would do everything he could to help the workers. Given what has unfolded today, including the arrest of some Debenhams workers here in Dublin, I want the Taoiseach to set out what he has actually done. Figures released by the European Commission today show Ireland is second only to Spain in terms of jobs lost in the second quarter of this year. A lot of people have lost their jobs and a lot more will lose theirs. This is what makes this Debenhams dispute so important for every vulnerable worker. This is, in fact, a test case for the Government. The Taoiseach gave a commitment that the Government would review company law, which leaves workers in such awful situations, with a view to amending it. Where is this review at? That the Government acts now and stands up for workers and legislates in their interests is not only important for the Debenhams workers, it is also important for every worker throughout the country. The Covid emergency has brought great economic turmoil and many people now look with a level of nervousness and uncertainty, particularly as the Government plans to curtail and cut the pandemic unemployment payment and the employment wage subsidy scheme.
The Taoiseach may say this is very complicated and complex but he knows he has options available to him to protect workers and prevent rogue companies from treating their staff in such a disgraceful way. We in Sinn Féin have published legislation to stop unscrupulous employers using tactical insolvency to avoid their obligations to their workers. The Taoiseach could support that legislation. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has outlined a statutory scheme for the protection of redundancy payments. The Duffy Cahill report presents a range of measures the Government could support and adopt in legislation. The Taoiseach therefore has options but he now has to demonstrate the political will to stand on the side of workers. He needs to start with the Debenhams workers today. He needs to intervene directly on their behalf. He should lift the phone to them at this time when they feel very vulnerable and left behind. He also needs to raise the phone to KPMG and request that it re-enter engagement and negotiation with the workers. It is not good enough for the Government to stand idly by while workers who have given years, in some cases decades, of loyal service give such service only to be abandoned.