Thousands March in Cork to Support Vita Cortex Workers


An estimated 5,000 people marched in the streets of Cork yesterday to show their support for the former workers of the Vita Cortex factory, who have spent nearly 60 days occupying their former workplace as part of a struggle to get their former boss Jack Ronan to pay a €1.2m redundancy package that had been promised to them since last September. The march, organised by the Cork Council of Trade Unions, left from Connolly Hall on Lapp's Quay and concluded at the plaza at the southern end of Grand Parade, via Parnell Place and Patrick St.

The marchers then waited to hear speeches from trade union leaders and one Vita Cortex worker, Martina Anderson, a 22-year veteran of that workplace. Ms. Anderson described herself and her colleagues as 'put into a position we didn't want to be in' and described how the occupation of her 'reluctant home' is putting strain on family commitments and people's health, and how she and her 31 fellow workers were led to believe by Ronan and Vita Cortex bosses that the promised €1.2m package would be delivered, but she reiterated the continuing determination of the Vita Cortex workers to see this struggle out to the very end. Her speech was greeted with ringing applause from the thousands gathered to hear her.


The trade union officials who spoke were Pat Guilfoyle of the TEEU (who compered the event), Ann Pigott (president of the Cork Council of Trade Unions), Ann Egar (sector organiser with SIPTU) and Joe O'Flynn (general secretary of SIPTU). Their speeches highlighted the efforts their unions were making to support the workers and resolve the issue, gave praise to the 32 'heroes' for their steadfastness over the last two months, and commended the crowd for turning out in numbers and for coming from all parts of the island of Ireland to express their solidarity. Among the interesting infomation in the union officials' speeches was that Jack Ronan has previous form in bilking his ex-workers – 56 workers in Dudley's Mills in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary back in mid-2003 were also left without promised redundancy pay when talks broke down between Mr. Ronan and their union (ATGWU) after Ronan issued ultimatums to the workers and objected to their occcupation of the tannery premises. He has lately threatened to commence legal action to remove the Vita Cortex workers from the factory on the Kinsale Rd., the crowd were told. Also mentioned was a derisory enticement from Vita Cortex management of €1500 to each of the 32 workers before Christmas to get them to end their occupation, which was refused. The officials vowed to keep up the pressure on Mr. Ronan, and called on him 'to pay his own bills and stop making the rest of us pick up the tab'.

Even though minister for social protection Joan Burton has 'fast-tracked' the payment of 60% of the statutory redundancy payment to the 32 workers, the campaign to secure the payment of the rest of the package promised to them will continue.