FORMER WORKERS AT the Vita Cortex plant in Cork will bring their six month long sit-in to an end tomorrow afternoon when they leave the factory for good.
The 32 workers have been receiving their redundancy payments from the company owner Jack Ronan in recent days and expect that all payments will have been received by tomorrow, allowing them to leave at 3pm.
A dispute over the terms of their redundancy payments last year prompted factory workers to stage a sit-in which lasted through Christmas and will have reached 161 days by the time it comes to an end tomorrow.
A resolution was reached on day 139 earlier this month but the former workers have continued to occupy the plant while they waited for the payments to reach their bank accounts.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening, former factory employee Jim Power said that the entire workforce was “thrilled” with the news.
“We’ve been saying all along ‘What are we going to do when it all ends?’” he said. “We’ll all go for a bit of grub and a few drinks tomorrow but Friday will be very strange after all this time. People can’t believe it.
“A couple of times over the last few months we were so near and yet so far. I’d imagine that if we did leave on the 16 December (when the sit-in began) it would have been a matter of keeping in contact with two or three but we’ll all be keeping in close contact now.”
Power said that the first thing he’ll be doing is going on holiday, admitting that he’s not sure what he will be doing after that but saying that he would prefer that the younger workers at the plant get a job over him.
He continued: “I can imagine there will be a couple who would prefer to see the younger people getting a chance at work although the job scene isn’t great.”
Power said that the workers had no regrets about staging the sit-in and said that the “incredible” support from people on Facebook and from around the world had kept them going at times when it looked like no resolution to the dispute was in sight.
“Obviously five months can’t be brought back and we lost out on the best part of two seasons. We came away and we’re happy enough but in our minds this should never have happened.
“When we were hearing stories that we were being called blackmailers, that was only making us resist more. It’s amazing how people stuck together.”
Power said that he hoped the endeavours of the Vita Cortex workers will prompt the government into action to prevent anything like this happening again.
But he admitted that disputes such as the one he and his colleagues have been through may become more prevalent now the government has reduced the amount of money which an employer can claim back from the State for redundancy payments to laid off workers.
He added: “Enda Kenny said it was wrong and he said it publicly. The Tánaiste said that it should never have happened. We spoke to everyone but what are they going to do about it now?
“Are they just going to let us sail into the sun or are they going to do something about it? If they were serious, they’d do something.”