Strike action closes Ballyfermot Iceland branch as staff protest ongoing uncertainty

Workers want clarity on future of chain and whether they face redundancy

Strike action closed the Ballyfermot branch of Iceland on Tuesday as staff became the latest to protest over what they describe as ongoing uncertainty regarding their jobs at the troubled retail chain.

The union representing workers at the store said they want the company to provide clarity on its future and whether the staff employed there are to be made redundant. It claims a significant number of staff are concerned about holiday pay and other money they are owed after other branches closed with almost no notice.

The company which purchased more than 20 Irish branches of Iceland in February, Metron Stores, went into examinership last month and a number of the shops have closed, at least on a temporary basis.

“Branches have been closed on a sort of ‘at will’ basis, with workers just turning up for work to be told that they are being put on temporary lay-off,” according to Jamie Murphy of the Independent Workers Union, which represents workers at a number of locations.


“But the report presented to the court by the examiner suggested that 16 branches will have to close so it is not clear whether the ones that have closed so far will reopen or what other branches will be going.

“If a shop is closing and is not going to reopen, then the staff should not be temporarily laid off. They should be paid what they are owed and receive redundancy so they at least have some certainty and can look to get other jobs.

“We have had some dealings with the examiner on this but the reality is that they have no executive function other than to advise the company. We would prefer to sit down with the company and discuss what is going on with it but, so far, they have refused to engage.”

In the meantime, workers at the chain are, in many cases, having their hours cut, according to the union.

The IWU’s Alex Homits said that this was one of the key issues behind the one day strike at the Ballyfermot branch.

“The workers will return to work on Wednesday but if the problems they have been encountering, like horrendous cuts to their hours, are not addressed, I would foresee further strike action,” he said.

Staff at a branch of Iceland in Coolock staged a protest in the store last month after saying they had only learned of its closure after turning up for work, while an occupation by staff in the Talbot Street branch is in its fourth week.

Metron Stores were contacted for comment but did not respond.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times