Workers at Iceland’s Waterford store have taken matters into their own hands by occupying the premises after an unexpected order by management to close the supermarket on Tuesday evening. The employees were given very little notice to leave the store, despite still being owed unpaid wages, holiday pay, and redundancy. Industrial Organiser, Mark Flynn, expressed his dismay, stating that the workers were informed at 4.30pm with only thirty minutes to vacate the premises. In light of what happened to their colleagues in the Clonmel store, the workers decided to stage a sit-in.
A notice placed on the shop door by the workers read “forced closure” with “30 minutes to close,” apologizing to customers for the short notice. This closure has affected 12 employees in Waterford and has prompted SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional, and Technical Union) to request an immediate meeting with the examiner responsible for Iceland supermarkets in Ireland. The aim of the meeting is to discuss outstanding staff entitlements. According to a spokesperson for SIPTU, the examiner has already reached out to the workers in Waterford, and negotiations are expected to take place in the coming days.
Iceland staff across the country have been facing ongoing uncertainty since the chain was franchised earlier this year. In June, more than 20 stores, including those in Douglas, Ballincollig, Talbot Street, and Clonmel, were placed into examinership. Last month, the High Court heard that a number of Irish retail stores in the Iceland chain would not reopen, affecting a large number of employees. An examiner appointed by the court to Metron Stores Limited, the operator of the Irish stores, reported that around 160 employees had been temporarily laid off, and 12 out of the 26 Irish stores had temporarily closed.
Joe Walsh, of JW Accountants, was appointed as the interim examiner to Metron in June. The court was informed that the company was insolvent and unable to pay debts of approximately €36m as they fall due. Mark Flynn expressed his outrage at the situation, stating, “This is a scandal where a rogue employer is seeking to cheat their low-paid workforce out of monies that they are owed. The company has the protection of the courts through examinership, the workers only have their union.”
The Waterford Council of Trade Unions took to social media to show their support for the workers, urging people to send messages of support and visit the store to demonstrate solidarity. The council highlighted that the staff are owed wages and holiday pay, with many having several years of service. Mark Flynn emphasized that SIPTU is determined to ensure that these low-paid workers are not abandoned and called for an immediate meeting with the examiner to secure their outstanding entitlements and achieve a just resolution.
Iceland has been approached for comment on the situation.