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Debenhams makes 40 staff redundant in Ipswich and Colchester ‘by conference call’

PUBLISHED: 14:10 01 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:28 01 June 2020

Debenhams made 40 staff from its Ipswich and Colchester stores redundant while they were muted on a conference call, it is claimed   Picture:SARAH LUCY BROWN

Debenhams made 40 staff from its Ipswich and Colchester stores redundant while they were muted on a conference call, it is claimed Picture:SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A ‘heartbroken’ ex-employee has told how Debenhams allegedly made 40 staff redundant from its Ipswich and Colchester stores during a conference call – in which they were all muted.

The ex-employee – who this paper has agreed not to name – worked at the Ipswich store for four years, before being made redundant without the chance to ask any questions, and with only three days notice.

Having been on furlough since the end of March she received a text saying there would be a conference call the next day, May 28. She said: “We all just assumed it was about how we were returning to work after lockdown.

MORE: How Suffolk shops are preparing for life after lockdown

“We rang into the conference call. We were told to put our phones on mute to avoid background noise,” she said.

A store official then began to read a statement, it is claimed.

“He explained about how the company had gone into administration and what that would mean. How they’d had to close stores in Ireland and how the stores would reopen [without restaurants or a bureau de change].

“And then he said: ‘Redundancies will have to be made and unfortunately none of your roles will be available. You have all been made redundant.’

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“At this point, I had tears coming down my face.

“Then he said: ‘There are obviously going to be a lot of questions, so I’m going to read out some likely questions and answer them for you’.

“He read out the questions and answered them.

“Then he said: ‘This is the end of the call, I’m really sorry. Thank you.’ and hung up.”

She said the news of the redundancies had come as a shock: “I texted my colleagues and they were all in completely shock.

“I don’t really know what to do. I have a three year old and now I have to explain to him why I can’t afford to send him to nursery.

“I’m heartbroken. I really am. I loved that job.”

When details of the call and redundancies were put to Debenhams, it offered no specific comment about the situation in Ipswich or Colchester.

Instead a spokesman for the struggling retailer said: “Debenhams’ preparations to reopen the vast majority of its stores from June 15 are well under way following the successful conclusion of lease negotiations on 120 stores.

“In the context of a retail industry undergoing profound change, the management team is working on the future shape of the group, with a view to seeking an exit from administration as a going concern. With a leaner and more flexible operating model, Debenhams will have the ability to adapt to what are likely to be fundamental shifts in the future trading environment.”

Debenhams was already struggling before lockdown, and went into administration on April 9.

It has announced the permanent closure of 12 stores with thousands of job losses.


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