Jack O’Connor said that while the workers’ dispute is with their employer, NAMA can help.
The foam packaging manufacturer on Cork’s Kinsale Road closed 10 days ago without paying redundancy to its staff.
NAMA has frozen the assets of a sister company, including a €2.5 million bank account, which Vita Cortex boss Jack Ronan says he wants to use to pay the redundancy.
NAMA says it legally cannot release the funds, and that it is Mr Ronan’s responsibility to resolve the redundancy issue.
The workers spent Christmas in the plant, and have vowed to continue their sit-in, which enters its 10th day today.
“Tens of thousands of workers around the country are with them in spirit,” Mr O’Connor said when he visited the plant on Christmas Eve. “They are fighting a much bigger battle than immediately affects themselves.
“There’s obviously something very rotten in this country when it’s possible for NAMA to pay enormous salaries to the people who were at the centre of the ruination of this country to manage the debt, and ordinary working people who worked hard and paid their taxes all through the bubble years, and longer, are in this situation, and nothing seemingly can be done to alleviate the difficulties.
“Our objective in SIPTU is to maximise the pressure on the employer, and the authorities and on NAMA to find a way to address the issues that affect these workers.
“There is an industrial dispute here. And at the end of the day, the dispute is with the employer.
“But there are forces who could be in a position to do something, who thus far have not been able to find a way to do it — NAMA,” Mr O’Connor said.
A local taxi firm offered to ferry workers to and from the plant for free after they set up a rota system to ensure everyone got to spend some time at home on Christmas Day.
The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, visited on Christmas Day and Mass was celebrated in the factory canteen.
The staff issued a joint statement over the weekend in which they said they were overwhelmed by the level of support.
“It has been a great source of strength to us to know that people from all over Ireland and further afield are so supportive of our action,” they said.
“We remain committed to our current course of action until we achieve a just settlement.
“At this time of the year it is hard to be away from your loved ones but we feel that we are standing up for our families.”
*You can post a message of support directly to the workers on Facebook by searching for the “Happy Christmas & New Year to Vita Cortex Workers” page.