Unions demand answers after Homesavers staff allegedly remove stock from Iceland shops

Unions demand answers after Homesavers staff allegedly remove stock from Iceland shops

Eoghan Dalton
One shopper who found the Iceland store in Waterford closed yesterday.


Unions demand answers after Homesavers staff allegedly remove stock from Iceland shops

The discount retailer’s Ireland franchise has been mired in uncertainty since they changed ownership last February.

TRADE UNION OFFICIALS have demanded an explanation following allegations that staff at discount retailer Homesavers have been removing stock and money from Iceland stores while it is in examinership.

The Independent Workers’ Union (IWU) and Siptu have sought explanations for the treatment of Iceland staff, with up to 150 seeking redundancy payments, their wages and holiday pay.

Iceland has been mired in uncertainty, with an examiner appointed to rescue the Ireland franchise’s stores from going under, amid mounting complaints from staff.

The Journal has learned of at least six stores where it is alleged that Homesavers personnel removed money from Iceland stores which were then shuttered.

Homeware retailer Homesavers’ director Naeem Maniar is also the director of The Project Point Technologies, which owns Metron Stores, the franchise holder for Iceland’s Irish stores since February.

On top of staff complaints, a businessman who is leasing shop units to Iceland in one Leinster town has expressed frustration at the developing situation, describing “stress and frustration” around the future of the store and its jobs.

David Brennan told The Journal that he is now also owed rent of over €15,000 and said that he has felt under pressure “to cancel the lease” on his Carlow town property as part of the examinership process – despite it being in arrears and having nine years remaining.

Removal of stock

Workers at a number of Iceland stores which have closed in recent months allege that staff from Homesavers have been used to remove cash and stock from the stores.

Staff at the Ballyfermot, Talbot St, Tallaght stores in Dublin and in Waterford said that people that identified themselves as Homesavers staff either ordered their store’s closure, removed cash and stock, or both, over the past two months.

In the Talbot St store, Homesavers staff were brought in to disinfect fridges that had contained food that was ordered to be destroyed following an FSAI recall order.

Jamie Murphy, the IWU’s General Secretary said that, “it is worrying that staff from another organisation – which we know have dealings with Iceland/Metron Stores – are taking stock from the remaining shops.

It is clear from the examiner’s last report, and from the assets the company has remaining, that the company has the funds to pay our members redundancy.

When a company is in examinership, its assets are under the protection of the courts and creditors cannot claim payments.

This was cited by Mr Justice Michael Quinn in the High Court last Monday, when he heard an appeal from beleaguered staff for him to direct the company to pay employees their unpaid wages, redundancy and holiday pay.

There were similar calls by Siptu, which represents workers at Iceland’s Waterford store – it has called for an immediate meeting with the examiner on the issue.

Joseph Walsh, of JW Accountants, was appointed an interim examiner to Metron Stores June when the court was told that the company was insolvent and unable to pay debts of about €36 million. Walsh did not respond when contacted for comment.

Homesavers has denied that they have anything to do with the operation of Iceland stores.

In response to a request for comment, Mr Maniar said:

“I believe that the discussion of me personally in connection with the company name of Iceland is a deliberate attempt of malice towards me with an intention to assassinate my character.”

He asked The Journal to refrain from publishing any defamatory statements about him. 

Waterford closure

In some cases at the stores recently, stock was taken from a closed store and brought to an Iceland shop in the same region.

This happened when the Clonmel, Co Tipperary store was closed recently – staff in Waterford told The Journal that their store saw dozens of pallets of stock brought to their shop.

It is understood that Homesavers personnel entered the Waterford store on Tuesday evening of this week and told staff that they had half an hour to close the store.

“Workers were informed at 4.30pm yesterday that they had thirty minutes to vacate the premises. Having seen what happened to their colleagues in the Clonmel store, they decided to stage a sit-in,” Mark Flynn, Siptu’s organiser for the wholesale, retail and distribution sector, said in a statement.

A placard placed on the entrance to the Waterford store reiterated that message, adding:

“It’s an absolute disgrace to treat all the staff this way. We have rent to pay, mouths to feed. We would like to thank our amazing customers and family for their continued support.”


Eoghan Dalton
Janet Phelan and Catherine Nolan at Iceland’s store in Waterford city.

Eoghan Dalton

Flynn alleged that the situation was a “scandal”.

“The company has the protection of the courts through examinership, the workers only have their union,” he said.

“SIPTU is determined that these low-paid workers will not be abandoned. We call for an immediate meeting with the examiner to secure their outstanding entitlements and ensure a just resolution.”

Waterford Fine Gael senator John Cummins said the short notice period was unacceptable treatment of staff.

He said he had spoken to Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Neale Richmond, about the issue.

“Obviously, there is an examinership process currently underway, tasked with trying to save the company and that has to be let run its course, however both the Minister and I expect all employers to fully comply with their legal and statutory obligations,” Cummins said.


In Carlow, where the store has also closed this week, landlord for the unit David Brennan told The Journal that he has been left “very frustrated and stressed” by dealing with Iceland in recent months.

That period has seen the company owe €16,000 in rent, Brennan alleged.

He also claimed that he was told by a senior figure in the Ireland operation that the town’s store will close and won’t be reopening under the new investor, which is understood to be Tesco for some stores.

Bernard Mulvany, a People Before Profit representative in Dublin who was in court supporting Iceland workers this week, said the stock held in stores is crucial as it serves as a “bargaining chip” for staff.

“It’s leverage to force the owner to move quick and address the concerns of these staff and if these goods are being removed, then that needs to be investigated – especially when Iceland is in examinership,” Mulvany said.

High Court

In the High Court this week, Iceland staff voiced their frustration at what has happened to their place of work over recent months.

“Not only did we suffer financially when our direct debits bounced, or we had to take loans to survive or go into overdrafts and be penalised for it, we also suffered with anxiety and stress from a lack of certainty about our futures,” Donna Grimes, who worked at the Talbot St store, told the court in a prepared statement.

The statement described the company’s failure to pay rent, utilities, and suppliers as revealing a “level of premeditated calculation”.

“On behalf of the biggest human stakeholders in this entire process and those who continue to occupy the Talbot St store, we ask for justice. We ask for justice for the ordinary workers who have been the victims of a most sinister and devious series of events,” said Grimes.

Mr Justice Quinn granted an extension to Walsh up to 27 September to allow him to complete negotiations with a proposed investor.

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