Northern Ireland

Austins: Derry department store workers 'devastated' at job losses

Toni McNally, Austins worker
Image caption Toni McNally has worked for Austins since she was 14

Some workers at Austins, in County Londonderry, say they have been left devastated by the closure of the department store.

Staff were told on Tuesday that the city centre business had gone into liquidation with the loss of 53 jobs.

It was opened by Thomas Austin in 1830 and is thought to have been one of the oldest stores in Europe.

One worker, Toni McNally, has been employed by the business for her entire working life.

In November 2014, the building was sold to the City Hotel Group. The receiver then sold the trading side of the business.

'Horrific'

"I'm there from I was 14 and I'm just absolutely devastated," Ms McNally told BBC Radio Foyle, "We laughed everyday, we had great customers, our colleagues were great, our bosses were great.

"Even for the management themselves it was just horrific."

Toni has two children and believes it will be difficult to adjust to being unemployed.

"I don't have a clue, I've never even been to the unemployment centre.

"The liquidators have set up a clinic for us to go on Friday so we can discuss what we're entitled to and all the rest of it," she said.

"We were all like brothers and sisters. I loved everybody that I worked with."

Image caption Workers arrived on Tuesday morning to find the shutters closed

Another worker, Jackie McCormill, described how she arrived at the store to find the shutters pulled down.

"We pulled the shutter up and stood inside to wait for one of the managers to say that the shop was closed, that the liquidators were in, and that it was all over for us really.

"The other girl I was with was actually physically shaking, it's like someone hit you over the head with a hammer, but this has been coming.

"Everybody was crying, women all red faced. People's faces were just drained."

Jackie said management had done their best to keep the business afloat.

"It seems like ten years this recession's going on and it just seems to be going deeper and deeper down.

"They tried their best to keep that store and I think they kept it a lot longer than most people would."

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