Christmas sit-in - Irish ex-workers demand pay


A Christmas sit-in by 32 dismissed workers and members of their families continues, although the owner claims he could pay redundancies if government-controlled NAMA money were freed to him.

Millionaire owner Jock Ronan denied that he is otherwise able to make redundancy payments at a closed Cork production plant where the sit-in is in its fourth week.
The workers, some of whom have been employed for up to 40 years at the Vita Vortex plant, which produces foams for the furniture computer industries, want the same 2.9 weeks rate of pay per year of service received by others who took redundancy from the firm in recent years.
Instead, they have only been offered €1,500 plus a total of two weeks each.
Several trade unions have promised to support the workers when they rally at the Dail (Parliament) this week. The government is anxious to prevent the dispute spreading nationwide

Ronan, who has been linked by shares and directorships to 29 other companies in Ireland and the U.K., has said his current financial position does not allow him to make funds available to pay redundancy to the sit-in workers.

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In his first public statement last weekend since the Cork premises was occupied when it was closed on December 16, he criticized the “negative and inaccurate publicity” which suggested the company had the funds to meet the redundancy payment.

There have been repeated calls from unions and politicians for Ronan to make clear the extent of his personal assets and to pay the redundancy himself from his own assets.
“I, like so many other business people, have had to accept the harsh reality of the unprecedented state of the Irish and global economy,” Ronan said.
He claimed to have borrowed €8.5 million in 2006 to purchase shares in the business because he saw “potential in the Vita Cortex business both in its trading and property portfolios.”

His Vita Cortex company has claimed that the redundancy payments could be made if NAMA, the state agency established as a “bad bank” to take over risky loans from banks, would agree to release  €2.5 million.
NAMA says the loans are related to borrowings for a separate company and cannot be released to pay the redundancy.
Workers on the sit-in, who were feted on the Late, Late Show on RTE television last weekend, claim the total redundancy at 2.9 weeks of pay to all 32 staff for each year of service, would come to
€1.2 million.
They claim the firm would be allowed a tax rebate at 60%, so the net cost to Vita Cortex would be €480,000.