Scores of well-wishers have been visiting a petrol station in Cork to show solidarity with members of staff who have mounted a sit-in to get their outstanding wages, sick pay, and other entitlements.
Employees at the Halfway Retail-run Texaco garage at Ballyvolane discovered on Tuesday that the company was ceasing operations after it had sent IT people to the garage shop to remove tills, computer equipment, and CCTV.
Two company executives also arrived and told staff they would give them their entitlements, but didn’t hand over any paperwork.
Earlier this year, problems developed when fuel was frequently not replenished. “We could run out for two or three days at a time. It was quite regular and around eight weeks ago we didn’t get any more,” Danny Falvey, one of the employees, said.
“They (company bosses) then sent us an email saying just to run the shop,” said Mr Falvey, a father of three who has worked there for the past six years.
The Dublin-based company took over the service station last January and agreed to honour staff members’ previous years of service for entitlement purposes.
One employee, Jacinta Power, has worked there for 24 years.
She said company directors had told staff the closure was a result of them being unable to get a rent reduction from the landlord.
Highway Retail Ltd runs a small number of other petrol stations around the country.
In scenes reminiscent of the Vita Cortex sit-in which lasted more than five months, people arrived with food, heaters, blankets, and mattresses for staff who have vowed to occupy the building “for as long as it takes”.
Mr Falvey said he was angry with the way staff are being treated, with just seven weeks to go to Christmas.
Power was cut to the garage at around 6am yesterday, but staff managed to get it reconnected.
“I’m disgusted by the way we’ve been treated,” said shop manager Deirdre Cregan.
“If we walk out now, we won’t have a leg to stand on.”
She said she was delighted with the support being shown by local people, many of whom just dropped in to say they hoped they win the battle.
“It’s that kind of thing which will keep us going. People have been fantastic and we’re here for the long haul if necessary,” Mr Falvey added.
Staff were also visited by local politicians, including the deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn, and Cllr Mick Barry.
Repeated attempts to contact the company failed.
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