MINISTER FOR JOBS Richard Bruton has weighed in on the Vita Cortex dispute – now in its 19th day – and has told both sides to talk.
In a statement this evening, Minister Bruton said that he has asked the Labour Relations Commission to be on stand-by to assist in solving the dispute.
The Minister expressed concern over the ongoing situation at the Cork plant. Workers are holding a sit-in to protest at the company not making redundancy payments after its sudden closure in December.
“In the interest of achieving an early resolution in this dispute, I would encourage both parties to meet under the auspices of the State’s industrial relations machinery as soon as possible with a view to exploring ways of resolving the issues in dispute,” said the Minister.
The 32 protesters are on the 19th day of their sit-in, which began when the plant closed on 16 December. The workers have said they will maintain the protest until the company makes “definite provision” to meet its obligations.
In a tweet this evening the workers holding the sit-in said: “We are still here… staying strong, standing tall”.
The Minister had been under pressure to get involved in the dispute. However this evening he clarified that it is the Department of Social Protection rather than his ministry which deals with the issue of redundancy payments, following a ‘reorganisation of responsibilities’ in January 2011.
In the statement, the Minister said that his office had been in continuous contact over Christmas with Vita Cortex representatives in SIPTU.
He said that he understood that the Department of Social Protection has been in contact with the company about expediting the processing of applications for the workers concerned under the redundancy payments scheme.
Hundreds of people attended a demonstration outside the building to support the workers at the plant.
“These workers are fighting a just cause. After giving a lifetime of commitment to this company all they are looking for are their redundancy and other entitlements they are due,” said SIPTU General Secretary Joe O’Flynn, speaking after the demonstration.
Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader had called on Minister Bruton to meet with the workers “as a matter of urgency”.
(Tweet from the Vita Cortex workers earlier this evening)