The workers were given three months’ notice of the plant’s closure after the company’s assets had been frozen by the National Assets Management Agency. Two days before they were due to leave they were told that the money wasn’t there for their redundancy. The workers collectively have given almost 900 years service. When told to leave the plant without a penny they said ‘NO’.
The workers are holding out for agreed redundancy payments of 2.9 weeks for every year of service. This is hardly a big ask, given that statutory redundancy payment is 2 weeks per year (plus one) and the employers will get 60% of the statutory amount back from the state. Vita Cortex boss Jack Ronan, who is pleading inability to pay, has a staggering 27 directorships listed with the Companies Registration Office!
Supported by thousands of workers, Socialist Party Councillor Mick Barry, the local community, trade unionists, musicians, sports stars, friends and their families, the 32 have maintained their occupation over Christmas and New Years. In doing so, they have become an inspirational focal point for all workers threatened with non-payment or closure, such as the Dublin La Senza workers.
Vita Cortex workers in Belfast have made contact with the occupation, with one long-standing worker in the Dunmurry plant saying “it could be us tomorrow” and wanting to send his solidarity. Catherine McCabe, one of the 32 in Cork, has said that the dispute was the first time she had been directly involved in a protest campaign.