LRC to hold talks to end Vita sit-in

THE Labour Relations Commission (LRC) will chair talks next week in a bid to end the month-long Vita Cortex sit-in.

The intervention came last night as the former Vita Cortex workers in Cork prepared for a rally outside Leinster House today, the 27th day of their campaign for redundancy payments.

Following days of behind-the-scenes contacts involving the LRC and IBEC, the commission confirmed last night that it had issued invitations to Siptu and Vita Cortex to attend “exploratory talks”.

Both sides have accepted the invitation to talks in Cork next Tuesday.

The LRC said it hoped the meeting would help the parties clarify the facts of the situation and “against that background to explore a mutual way forward”.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the LRC’s intervention.

Vita Cortex said it always “welcomed and encouraged third-party intervention and assistance in trying to resolve the situation”.

But Siptu organiser Ann Egar said that while workers will engage in talks, the sit-in will continue until a satisfactory resolution is found.

Meanwhile, internet access in the factory has been cut off. Workers claimed the move was designed to silence their Facebook, Twitter and blog campaigns.

But one worker said they will not be silenced and have arranged alternative internet access. “We are going in to day 27 now and people are tired but we are not giving up,” he said.

“The longer this goes on, the more support we seem to be getting and that is keeping us going. Today will be a huge boost for us.”

Cork hurling coach Jimmy Barry Murphy visited the factory again yesterday to pledge his support.

Shop steward Sean Kelleher, who worked for Vita Cortex for 47 years, said morale remains high.

“Today’s rally will be our first national action and we are looking forward to it. The politicians are back from their Christmas break and we are hopeful they can do something for us.”

The issue was raised in the Dáil yesterday.

Labour TD Ciarán Lynch said: “While I welcome the news that the LRC is involved, overall corporate governance in Ireland must be changed to end this practice of skullduggery.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also welcomed the LRC intervention, but added: “This should have taken place earlier and I call on the enterprise minister to meet the workers and management on this issue.”

Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer urged both sides to fully engage in the talks.

Today’s rally, which starts at 1pm, is supported by other trade unions including Unite, the TEEU and Mandate.

The workers will be joined by former workers at Lagan Brick in Co Cavan, which closed before Christmas. They were informed the plant was closing just hours before it ceased operation on December 15.

Since then, 29 workers affected by the closure have maintained a 24-hour protest at the plant entrance.

Meanwhile, the Cork Council of Trade Unions is organising a solidarity protest at the Vita Cortex plant at 2pm on Saturday.

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