Primark workers 'only guaranteed wages to end of the week'

Stunned onlookers survey the charred shell of the former Primark store in Castle Place. Picture by Mal McCann
Gary McDonald Business Editor

HUNDREDS of staff at Primark - including those forced to make a traumatic dash to safety when Tuesday's blaze broke out in Belfast - will only be paid to the end of this week, it has emerged.

And the Usdaw union, which represented many of the 450 workers at the city centre retailer, said its members were "extremely distressed and concerned" as they now enter a period of uncertainty.

Management at Primark met workers in a highly-charged and emotional hour-long meeting in Belfast's Europa Hotel.

Usdaw area organiser Michala Lafferty said afterwards: “It was a constructive meeting where the company confirmed all staff will be paid up until the end of the week.

“Over the coming days further discussions will take place to agree what happens next week.

“The company has reassured me that the welfare and job security of the staff is their priority.”

A Primark spokesman added: "The welfare of our colleagues remains our most important concern and we are fully committed to supporting them during this difficult time.

"The management team in Belfast are meeting their colleagues over the next few days to provide them with the necessary support and information."

The aftermath of the fire at the Primark store in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

As speculation continues as to how the devastating blaze started, the Primark spokesman added: "We are continuing to work with the relevant authorities to determine the cause of the fire, and we thank everyone for their amazing support during this challenging time for all concerned."

Separately a meeting took place in City Hall of a newly-convened 'business recovery group' comprising members of Belfast City Council, City Centre Management, Chamber of of Trade and Commerce and the emergency services.

Chamber of Trade president Rajesh Rana said: “Following the devastating fire, our focus is now on how we can help.

“The purpose of the business recovery group is to provide information, support and assistance to traders and all those affected by the Primark fire."

A safety cordon around Bank Buildings was reduced yesterday to approximately 45 metres, and shops and cafes outside that zone will be allowed to open as normal from Thursday morning. As of this morning 14 businesses remain within the cordon.

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