herald

Sunday 19 November 2017

Six in pay-row sit-in taken ill at freezing Vita Cortex factory

A GROUP of workers staging at sit-in at the Vita Cortex plant have fallen ill.

Six of the protesters have required medical treatment after four weeks of refusing to leave the freezing Cork factory.

Supporters of the 32 workers -- who launched the protest on December 16 after losing their jobs without €1.2m in redundancy payments being released -- warned that it has become a human rights issue rather than a labour rights dispute.

Among those who are now sick is worker spokesman Henry O'Reilly. He is being treated for a serious chest infection.

Other workers have fallen sick with the flu and respiratory infections.

Worker Greg Marshall's daughter Veronica said the sit-in conditions are clearly linked to the illnesses now being contracted by staff.

"It is freezing cold in there, the roof is leaking and they are sleeping on the floor. It is bound to take its toll on their health," she said.

But workers have vowed to continue their sit-in protest until they get their redundancy entitlements.

Their morale was further boosted this week with visits and messages of solidarity from other workers laid off from Waterford Crystal, Beamish & Crawford and Swissco.

They also received a special visit from Cork hurling boss, Jimmy Barry Murphy.

The workers' trade union, SIPTU, and Vita Cortex owner Jack Ronan, will meet at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) next Tuesday in a bid to hammer out a resolution to the protracted dispute.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said he sympathised with the workers.

"I recognise the frustration of workers -- I am pleased that the LRC has succeeded in getting both sides to sit down together," he said.

"That is progress so, hopefully, these are moves that will advance the resolution of this difficult problem. The employers need to use the machinery of the State to resolve issues like this -- that is why we have the LRC there," he added.

Mr Bruton bluntly warned that workers must be treated "in a proper and decent way."

hnews@herald.ie

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