Saturday 24 February 2018

Families put under great strain, say Vita Cortex protesters

Emma and
Jody O'Connor
protesting at
the Vita Cortex
Emma and Jody O'Connor protesting at the Vita Cortex plant
Catherine McCabe (centre) with her mother Marian and aunt Agnes

Olivia Kelleher

WORKERS at a foam packaging plant who have been engaged in a sit-in over redundancy payments for more than two weeks have spoken of the strain that has been put on their loved ones by the dispute.

The 32 workers at Vita Cortex in Ballyphehane, Cork city, are using a rota to ensure staff members are always on site .

Young father Barry Buckley, from Hollyhill in Cork, yesterday spoke of his sadness at missing much of the Christmas holidays with his 17-month-old son Colin and girlfriend Helena.

"I was able to see him (Colin) on Christmas morning. I missed New Year's Eve because I was out here that night. I missed the celebrations. I am spoiling Helena's Christmas.

"It is the worry of mortgages and stuff like that. Will I have to get rid of my car? It is tough. I bought a house in the boom -- at the worst possible time. it is starting to get scary."

Mr Buckley said his son was crying as he left for the plant yesterday morning in a "heartbreaking'' scene.

"I would like to bring him out for the day somewhere. It is putting a strain on us as a family."

One of those who attended a solidarity protest at the plant yesterday was Marian McCabe, from Togher in Cork, whose daughter Catherine (26) and son Kevin (35) were both employed by Vita Cortex.

Mrs McCabe says she is trying to keep their spirits up

"They are down, as you would imagine. Who would have thought I would have been visiting my son and daughter at Vita Cortex on Christmas morning? They are like the living dead. They are in limbo."

Jim Power, an employee with more than 40 years' service at Vita Cortex, was joined by several family members .

Four weeks ago Jim's daughter Amanda gave birth to a baby son, James, who was brought to a Mass at the Vita Cortex plant on Christmas day.

"He has been one of our youngest protesters. I got to spend two hours with James yesterday and it is about three days since I saw him. He looked so big in the space of three days. If this had been a normal Christmas I would have been looking forward to going back to work tomorrow instead of spending the last few weeks here," Jim said.

Workers have described as insulting an offer from Vita Cortex of a payment to each of €1,500 and two weeks' wages.

They want a €1.2m redundancy package -- 2.9 weeks per year of service for each worker -- which they believe their employer has the ability to pay.

They say they are "truly touched and motivated" by the messages of support which have flooded in via Facebook.

Trade union SIPTU has decided to escalate the dispute in order to achieve a "just outcome" for the workers and their families.

The staff involved in the protest have worked a total of 847 years with the company. They have been told that the money required for their redundancies had been frozen in the accounts of a sister company that is controlled by NAMA.

Irish Independent

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