Union members urged to attend rally in solidarity with Vita Cortex workers


UNION MEMBERS throughout the country are being urged to attend a public rally outside Leinster House later this week in support of Vita Cortex workers in Cork who have been engaged in a sit-in over their redundancy payments for more than three weeks.

Siptu members are expected to join the protest on Thursday as the Dáil resumes following the Christmas recess. Two buses will bring the former Vita Cortex workers and their families to Dublin. The workers started their sit-in on December 16th at the plant in Ballyphehane, Cork.

Vita Cortex workers have received the backing of Cork hurling coach Jimmy Barry Murphy who has visited the plant. Chernobyl Children’s Project International founder Adi Roche has also delivered a hamper to the workers.

The workers attracted nearly 1,000 new fans on their Facebook page over the weekend following their Late Late Show appearance.

Employees want a €1.2 million redundancy package – 2.9 weeks per year of service for each worker – which they believe Vita Cortex has the capacity to pay.

Henry O’Reilly, who has worked at Vita Cortex for over 40 years, says employees have been humbled by the international support they have received via Facebook and Twitter.

“We have people from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand saying ‘don’t give in, you need to stand firm’.”

Siptu president Jack O’Connor is confident there will be a huge turnout at the peaceful protest which is planned for 1pm on Thursday outside Leinster House.

“There are tens of thousands of union members around the country who empathise with them and who are most anxious that they will emerge with a reasonable outcome.”

Cork South Central Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath insists the Department of Social Protection needs to conduct a rigorous assessment of the claim by Vita Cortex that it is unable to pay.

“The latest set of publicly available abridged accounts for Vita Cortex (Ind) Limited shows that the company made a profit of €366,000 during the 16 months to the end of April 2010.

The accounts also show that the company was owed €1.6 million by its debtors at the time, including €712,000 due from Web Circle Limited – a company of which Mr Ronan was a director and his family owned a sizeable share – for “management charges”.

“The question should be answered as to whether these management charges have since been paid to Vita Cortex (Ind) Limited by Web Circle Limited.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) has indicated it is “ready, willing and on standby” to assist if requested by either party in the dispute.