They staged a successful sit-in protest in a landmark dispute over redundancy pay earlier this year.
A group of former Vita staff and their relatives travelled from Cork to Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday for a reception held in their honour.
The President told the group that he appreciated they had needed time for their loved ones after a five-month struggle. He said he had been more than happy to accede to a request from Siptu vice-president Patricia King to meet them.
“The resilience and dignity that you as former workers in Vita Cortex showed during a difficult and protracted dispute was a great exercise in solidarity with each other.”
The protest by 23 workers lasted 161 days and ended on May 24.
During the protest they support from celebrities including Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and actor Cillian Murphy.
President Higgins noted the ultimate resolution of the dispute was achieved through the goodwill and good sense of working together in conjunction with the processes of the Labour Relations Commission.
Ms King thanked the President for meeting them. She praised the Vita workers for being a strong example of people working together in solidarity. She said the workers had captured the public’s imagination as they were fighting for their rights with “no greed attached”.
Former Vita Cortex shop steward Seán Kelleher, who worked 47 years at the factory, said he and his former colleagues were delighted that their efforts had been recognised by the President of Ireland.
“It was just amazing. It was a great day and thoroughly enjoyable. I think it is the first time workers have been recognised in such a way for the stand they took.”
About half of the former staff have found jobs, while several others are engaged in retraining and other courses.