Vita Cortex workers take protest to Clonmel for third time

Twenty of the 32 Vita Cortex workers who have been staging a sit-in at the former foam plant in Cork over redundancy payments, took their long-standing protest to the Poppyfield Retail Park in Clonmel last week. This was the third venue in South Tipperary connected to Vita Cortex company owner Jack Ronan, that the workers have hit.

Twenty of the 32 Vita Cortex workers who have been staging a sit-in at the former foam plant in Cork over redundancy payments, took their long-standing protest to the Poppyfield Retail Park in Clonmel last week. This was the third venue in South Tipperary connected to Vita Cortex company owner Jack Ronan, that the workers have hit.

Over the past two weeks the workers have taken their protest to Mr. Ronan’s 300-acre farm in Orchardstown just outside Clonmel, as well as Clonmel Racecourse and most recently the Poppyfield Retail Park.

SIPTU shop steward Sean Kelleher, a Vita Cortex employee for 47 years, said that they were back in ‘JR’s country’ as part of a country-wide protest which will take them to every property and business that he has been or is associated with.

Last Thursday the workers spent some time in at the Poppyfield Retail Park before embarking on the journey to Cork where they were taking the protest to the home of Mr. Ronan’s father-in-law, Sean McHenry, who is a company director.

Mr Kelleher said the protest will be brought to other properties associated with Mr Ronan.

Company workers have been holding a sit-in protest on the grounds of the former foam plant for 62 days now, in the hope that they can secure a redundancy package of two week’s minimum statutory entitlement plus a .9 week ex-gratia payment that former employees had received over the past three years.

This would amount to €1.25m for the 32 workers, and 60% of that payment would be returned to the company under the social insurance fund, operated by the Department of Social Protection. The total cost to the company would be €372,000. However a bank account that holds money which would have covered the redundancy payments, has been frozen by NAMA, along with other assets owned by Mr. Ronan. Despite requests from Mr. Ronan, NAMA are refusing to release the €1.25m.

Despite the longevity of the protest, Mr. Kelleher said that they have been overwhelmed with the support that they have been receiving from people.

“We are astounded, support has been coming to us from all over Ireland and outside including Boston, China, Japan, we have been on Korean TV also.

“Not alone are we doing it for ourselves, but we are urged on by people, because people see that they could be in the same boat themselves, that they could be made redundant and employers won’t pay anything.”

“We have to keep going because we are getting such support.”

Mr. Kelleher said that the employees feel very let down by Mr. Ronan and Mr. McHenry and said that if Mr. Ronan wanted to re-engage in negotiations with them, they would be happy to do so.

“But we are standing firm and we will stay with this until we get it,” said Mr. Kelleher.