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Vita staff hit back at claims sit-in 'will cost jobs'

Former staff at the Vita Cortex plant have reacted angrily to a warning from the company that their ongoing sit-in over redundancy payments could mean further job losses.

Vita Cortex closed its operations in Cork on December 16 and 32 workers have been staging a sit-in since that date after they were told they would not be receiving any redundancy payments.

In a statement issued on Thursday night, the company said the move by the workers was undermining Vita Cortex's attempts to "maintain the existing levels of business and the employment needed to service it, which is heading to further potential job losses in the very near future".

The group employs 60 people in Athlone, Cork and Belfast.

But SIPTU organiser Anne Egar rejected the claim.

"We didn't put other jobs in jeopardy. We didn't go seeking support. We just had a peaceful protest in Cork. All we said is that we have an agreement with this company on redundancy and we just want them to pay it," said Ms Egar.

"If (owner) Jack Ronan is concerned about jobs, the best thing he can do is to sit down with us and work to find a resolution," she said.

The workers want 2.9 weeks' pay per year of service, which is in line with previous redundancy deals at the plant.

Jim Power, one of eight workers who appeared on 'The Late Late Show' last night, said Mr Ronan was trying to cause the workers to lose public support.

Mr Power said Ian Kirby, the managing director at the Cork plant, had told the Lord Mayor of Cork Terry Shannon before Christmas of the dreadful financial scenario facing the company, and that the Athlone and Belfast plants could also be put into liquidation.

"He's trying to blame us for what is happening . . . we are entitled to our redundancy money," said Mr Power.

Vita Cortex said it had submitted a claim for statutory redundancy for the workers after auditors verified its financial position under the "inability to pay" application process.

Fianna Fail Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath TD said the Department of Social Protection should carry out a rigorous assessment of the claim by Vita Cortex that it was unable to pay the redundancy.

Irish Independent