Vita Cortex workers hopeful mediation can end factory sit-in


LABOUR RELATIONS Commission talks are expected to get under way later this week in an attempt to end the dispute at the Vita Cortex factory in Cork where a sit-in has been ongoing for the last 115 days.

Former Vita Cortex workers and their relatives gathered at the factory in Ballyphehane yesterday for a special Easter Mass.

Sheila Wilkie, who has 12 years of service at the factory, said it had been “very tough” for workers who were taking part in the sit-in, “but we are very united and very determined”.

She said she hoped “common sense will prevail” and that Vita Cortex owner Jack Ronan “will come to the table and that he will meet us”.

The commission has informed the workers’ union, Siptu, that the owners of Vita Cortex are prepared to enter mediation talks. Siptu manufacturing division organiser Gerry McCormack said the workers welcomed the latest development.

The 32 employees involved in the dispute are seeking 0.9 weeks of pay for each year of service which, they say, was agreed with the company and given to other employees. They have already received their statutory entitlements of two weeks a year of service from the Department of Social Protection.

The workers received a boost on Saturday when Bertie Auld and Joe McBride of the European Cup-winning 1967 Celtic team visited the factory to show their solidarity.

They also received a visit from MEP Phil Prendergast.

In a statement via Twitter yesterday, the employees said they could not begin to express their gratitude to members of the public who have provided emotional and practical support during the sit-in.

“Christmas to Easter and all the days in between. We thank you for standing with us through it all. The strength that you have given to us has been amazing.”

Priests from Ballyphehane parish concelebrated a Mass at the factory yesterday.

Masses were held on site on the 100th day of the sit-in and on Christmas Day.

The Vita Cortex foam manufacturing plant on Cork’s Kinsale Road closed on December 16th last. Multiple efforts to resolve the dispute via the Labour Relations Commission have failed.

The workers have received messages of support from, amongst others, linguist Noam Chomsky, former president Mary Robinson, comedian Des Bishop and Cork hurling manager Jimmy Barry Murphy.