Vita sit-in to continue despite legal threat

The Vita Cortex workers have vowed to continue their sit-in despite threats of legal action.

Siptu is considering its position after the company issued a legal letter requesting the 32 former workers — who are entering day 55 of their sit-in today — to leave the Cork plant so it can secure the building.

But the workers said they are staying put.

“We don’t intend going anywhere,” Jim Power said. “If Jack Ronan paid us our redundancy when the factory closed in December, we would have left that morning.”

A spokesman for Vita Cortex boss Mr Ronan denied the threat of legal action was aggressive. “There is a request to vacate or face the possibility of legal action.”

The company said it has a responsibility to secure the site, and said there are insurance, along with health and safety issues, involved. The spokesman pointed out the company has not cut off the water or electricity since the plant closed in December.

“They didn’t have to do that,” he said.

The threat of legal action came as second-level students who have been following the Vita Cortex story as part of the school curriculum visited the factory yesterday.

The 20 pupils in second year Class Seannan from Kenmare Community College in Co Kerry have been following the workers’ plight as part of a Civic, Social and Political Education course.

They have sent cards and messages of goodwill to the workers, which are all displayed on the factory’s canteen wall. But they wanted to see for themselves the conditions inside the factory.

Their teacher, Anne Piggot, said: “They have been following this story since before Christmas through the newspapers, on the news and online.

“But they have learned so much more from actually visiting the factory and seeing for the themselves the conditions the workers are living in.

“You can sit in a classroom and learn about human rights and humanitarian issues but it is so much better when you see it first-hand.

“And I think it has boosted the morale of the workers too.”

Student Grace Meagher played the harp and Patrick McCarthy played the accordion for the workers. And they marked Fintan Davis’s 14th birthday with a cake.

Ms Piggot, who is also the president of the Cork Council of Trade Unions, said she hopes the people of Cork will take to the streets this Saturday for a solidarity march with the workers.

“If Saturday doesn’t work, the campaign will be escalated.”

The workers were also visited last night by Impact general secretary Shay Cody, assistant general secretary Stephen Lyons and its president, Kevin O’Malley.

Meanwhile, Labour TD Ciarán Lynch wrote to the director of the Office of Corporate Enforcement yesterday asking him to examine several issues in relation to Vita Cortex.

Mr Lynch asked Paul Appleby to specifically examine whether €712,000 in management fees, owed to Vita Cortex by a company 50% owned by Mr Ronan’s wife, were ever paid, or were simply written off.

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