Cork Council backs Highway 6 ahead of key meeting

Cork Council backs Highway 6 ahead of key meeting

Cork City Council has backed the Highway 6 workers engaged in a filling station sit-in and accused their former employer of treating them appallingly.

Councillors also called on the government to fast-track protective legislation for workers.

The call came after the city's politicians unanimously backed a motion at tonight's city council meeting fully supporting the stance taken by the six former workers at the Texaco filling station in Ballyvolane, on the northside of the city.

The Highway Retail-run filling station closed suddenly last week and the workers were issued with P45s.

They began their sit-in last Tuesday afternoon in pursuit of redundancy payments, and defied legal threats to vacate the premises.

City councillors criticised Highway Retail tonight for its treatment of the workers and their families.

AAA Cllr Mick Barry and FF Cllr John Sheehan said the workers have been treated appallingly just 50 days before Christmas.

SF Cllr Chris O'Leary said little has changed for workers since the epic 161-day Vita Cortex sit-in in Cork which started in December 2011.

He called on politicians who were in opposition at the time, and who pledged to introduce protective legislation, to act now that they are in power.

Former Siptu organiser, Cllr Terry Shannon, who visited the Vita Cortex workers during his term as Lord Mayor, said the former Highway staff have been treated appallingly.

"They have just been discarded. It's absolutely appalling," he said.

"It's an abomination that people should be told to get out, this close to Christmas, with nothing. People should be treated decently and with respect.

"As a city council, we should send out a message to employers that action like this is not acceptable, and that we support these people."

Cork North Central Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O'Brien, in whose constituency the sit-in is taking place, is due to meet some of the directors of Highway Retail in Dublin tomorrow in a bid to persuade them to live up to their responsibilities.

The company has not responded to media queries.

However, in an email to staff over the weekend, one of its directors, Lorraine McCloskey, said the staff's employment had been transferred to a 'new operator' under the terms of the European Communities (Protection of Employees' Rights on a Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003.

She said they should transfer across with their existing terms and conditions of employment.

"Given that your employment is eligible for transfer, a redundancy situation does not arise in this instance and Highway Retail Ltd cannot be considered liable for any redundancy payments," she said.

However, she did not identify the new operator and there has been no further communication with the six staff members.

There is speculation that the leading independent forecourt retailer Applegreen could be poised to take over the business.

The workers said they will maintain the sit-in until they get clarification in writing about all the outstanding matters.

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