Workers plan ‘major escalation’ of protest after Vita Cortex rejects proposals

Workers at the Vita Cortex plant in Cork are planning a “major escalation” of their protest following the company’s refusal to take on board the guidance offered by mediation officials who attempted to find a solution to the four-month-long dispute.

The 32 workers engaged in the sit-in have issued an appeal to the public to rally around them in the wake of what they have termed the “disgraceful treatment” they have been subjected to by management at the former foam manufacturing plant.

Last Friday, management at Vita Cortex issued a statement in which they claimed the “guidance proposals” suggested by mediators did not provide a solid basis for a resolution to the dispute.

Vita Cortex also repeated that the outcome of the mediation process “ignores the company’s confirmed inability to pay redundancy”.

The company insists that it has discharged its duties and obligations as required by all relevant authorities.

Meanwhile, SIPTU organiser Anne Egar said the guidance issued by the independent mediators on Apr 20, if accepted by the company, would have provided for a fair and equitable conclusion to the dispute.

Ms Egar says the company claim of “inability to pay” is directly contradicted by a previous public offer from Vita Cortex owner Jack Ronan to provide the workers with ex-gratia redundancy payments totalling €180,000.

“More importantly it also ignores a reported offer from Nama to Jack Ronan to release funds to pay all the workers what they are owed if he made available to the agency an unencumbered asset. During the recent mediation process it is our understanding that Ronan did identify and agree to the transfer of an unencumbered asset to Nama.

“That he did not follow through on this proposal is another stark example of Ronan’s failure to display any semblance of humanity to his former employees throughout this dispute.”

Ms Egar said given that the owners have now rejected the independent mediators’ proposals it is now the union’s intention to make the document public. This, she insists, will allow people to come to their own conclusions on whether these proposals did indeed provide the basis for a fair and equitable solution.

SIPTU will hold a general meeting of the Vita Cortex workers this evening in which plans for a “major escalation” of the dispute will be discussed. The workers have been occupying the plant in Ballyphehane, Cork, since Dec 16 in pursuit of redundancy pay.

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