Primark staff will be paid this week but there is uncertainty about their future employment as the firm condiders its options in the wake of Tuesday’s devastating fire.
As several meetings took place throughout the day between traders, officials and elected representatives, the company’s staff were offered immediate support in dealing with possessions such as phones car keys and cards lost in the blaze.
However, without any decisions as yet as to when or where the store might re-open, workers’ representative Michaela Lafferty said there was little more information as yet.
“I have had a conversation with the company who have guaranteed pay this week before they are able to confirm what is happening next week,” said the area organiser with the union USDAW which represents the Belfast staff.
“We have had conversations about redeployment and they are exploring all options, which is totally accepted by our membership,” she added.
“I feel quite positive the company has acted responsibly, compassionately and honestly.
“They have put their hands up and said they just do not have the answers needed but they will have and staff are their priority. They will do everything they can to look after them.”
As the Fire Service continued to damp down the blaze that broke out at Bank Buildings, a multi-agency group discussed the state of the building and alternative trading options.
Later several leading figures including the Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey and Rajesh Rana, president of the city’s Chamber of Trade and Commerce pledged their organisations’ support.
Speaking after the meeting at City Hall, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “This was a very useful meeting with the Council and emergency services, setting out the next moves following the Primark Fire.
“The key message following this meeting is that despite this tragedy, Belfast City Centre is still open for business and that it will bounce back from this.
“Belfast has a fantastic retail offer and we have no doubt will go from strength to strength following this fire.”
Mr Roberts also welcomed an announcement from rates agency Land & Property Services (LPS) encouraging impacted traders to apply for the Rates Hardship fund.
All businesses impacted by the fire have been urged to contact them to discuss support available for rates.
“During this period, LPS is willing to discuss extended payment arrangements with affected businesses,” said the agency.
“Ratepayers may also be eligible for the Hardship Relief scheme. This relief is intended to assist businesses who meet the specific conditions to recover from a temporary crisis, financial or otherwise, as a result of exceptional circumstances.”
Those with premises damaged by the fire can apply to the District Valuer with LPS to have the rateable value (NAV) reassessed.