Thirty-two workers on sit-in at the closed Vita Cortex factory in Cork have earned a massive morale boost after Alex Ferguson joined a growing line of supporters.
The Manchester United manager phoned lifelong fan Jim Power at the foam manufacturing plant in Cork to voice his admiration for their stand.
The staff are now on the 61st day of a sit-in as they fight for owner Jack Ronan to pay up full redundancy packages.
Ferguson’s support has seen him join the ranks of activist and political theorist Noam Chomsky, human rights champion Mary Robinson, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and folk singer Christy Moore.
In a phone call yesterday afternoon, Ferguson told the workers: “I’m really proud of you standing up for what you think are your rights – you are perfectly right and it’s the correct thing to do. Stick in there.
“We are all behind you and I’m glad that it’s all United fans there because you have more courage than the rest. Well done.”
A spokesman for trade union SIPTU, which is representing the workers, said it was very encouraging on the back of all the other support.
“It’s another massive morale boost for the workers sitting in – even for those who don’t support Manchester United, even if you are a Liverpool fan,” he said.
The vast majority of workers are believed to be Man Utd fans. The call was set up after Ferguson’s tailor, Dave O’Connell from Cork-based Suit Distributors, was measuring him up for a suit last weekend and explained the lengths the workers have gone to.
It is understood Ferguson, a one-time shop steward, told Mr Power he had been involved in the apprentice strikes in the shipyard in Glasgow in 1961.
A signed United jersey is also being sent from Old Trafford to the workers.
The former Vita Cortex staff spent Christmas away from families manning the factory.
Five thousand people took to the streets of Cork city last weekend in a show of support for the sit-in.
Businessman Mr Ronan has insisted he cannot afford full redundancy payments despite workers’ claims he had assured them they would get their entitlements.
The Government is in the process of arranging payments of two weeks’ wages for every year of service to the staff this week, The workers thought they would get 2.9 weeks for every year.