Vita staff are not entitled to get ‘top up’

Vita Cortex workers are not entitled to get any kind of “top-up” from the company which employed them on statutory redundancy paid by the Government, the Department of Social Protection has said.

However Siptu, which represents the workers, says there is nothing to stop the company’s owners, including Jack Ronan, from paying ex gratia payments to the workers out of their own pockets.

The revelation is likely come as a serious blow to the morale of the 32 workers who have been occupying the plant since before Christmas.

The Department of Social Protection said yesterday that where an employer has funds, these must go to meet the employees’ statutory entitlement and any shortfall will be met by the state.

“There can be no question of the state paying the statutory entitlement and the employer paying a ‘top up’ or bonus,” the department said.

In cases where an inability to pay has been lodged, as is the case with Vita Cortex, any monies the employer has would have to go to refund the state’s Social Insurance Fund, which is paying the statutory redundancy.

However, Siptu’s Anne Egar said the employer of the former workers is Vita Cortex Industries Ltd. She said, separate to that entity, payments could be made by the company’s owners. She pointed out that, at Christmas, the owners offered to make a payment of €1,500 per worker.

The 32 campaigners, on the 62nd day of their occupation, are set to receive their statutory redundancy of two weeks for every year of service after their claims were fast-tracked. They say they want 2.9 weeks and are calling on former boss Jack Ronan to pay out a total of €370,000.

Meanwhile, the workers were given a lift by the visit of a three-year-old boy who is set to undergo pioneering “bionic ear” surgery to cure deafness.

A concert at the St Finbarr’s Hurling and Football Club had been organised to help the Vita workers.

However, when they heard about the plight of Calum Geary, they decided to donate the proceeds, €2,277, to help pay for the operation.

The HSE has agreed to fund the €60,000 operation but the Geary family, who live in Ballyhooly, Co Cork, will need to secure an additional €110,000 for post-operative care for Calum over the next three years.

Aimee Collins, one of the workers, said they were delighted when Calum, his parents and his twin visited the workers at the Kinsale Road plant.

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