Five thousand people marched through the streets of Cork in support of the Vita Cortex workers. The huge support from working class people has been tremendous. Celebrities too have come out in support of them – Alex Ferguson, Mary Robinson, Christy Moore, Paul McGrath and others.
Still they sit in and Jack Ronan the principal owner, with the backing of IBEC, continues to make profit from his vast empire, continues to live in a mansion and continues to ignore his commitment to pay his former workers the 2.9 weeks of pay per year of service that was promised to them.
Enda Kenny met with the workers but said that there was nothing he could do. This is coming from a Taoiseach who is threatening draconian measures against those who refuse to pay the unjust household tax. One law for us and another for the millionaire boss.
Jack O’ Connor visited the Vita Cortex plant on Christmas Eve and said SIPTU would mobilise tens of thousands of its members in the New Year in order to fix this dispute. What New Year was he talking about!
Workers throughout the country do not want to be defeated on this issue. They correctly see another threshold of decency being crossed. However the leaderships of SIPTU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) have so far proved unwilling to tap into this support and in particular have been unwilling to mobilise industrially.
One SIPTU official has quoted the Industrial Relations Act 1990 as the reason why the unions can’t move the dispute forward. However where there is a will there is a way. In 2005 SIPTU and ICTU took on the government and Irish Ferries. Circumventing the Industrial Relations Act they put out a call for a protest on a Friday afternoon and 100,000 responded, with workers confidently walking off the job.
Shop stewards from around Cork met with Vita Cortex workers and discussed ways of bringing about such solidarity action. There was a determination to build on the meeting and to bring about a victory for the Vita Cortex workers. The Vita Cortex workers have also begun to step up their action, with a view to hitting Jack Ronan in the pocket. Such militancy will increase their chances of success.
SIPTU and ICTU should now set a date for a lunchtime work stoppage throughout Cork city and the surrounding areas. There should be mass leafleting of workplaces and an appeal made to every shop steward and worker to support and mobilise for a stoppage to pressurise the government into taking action – seize Ronan’s assets – pay the redundancy! No business from Jack Ronan’s empire should be exempt from pickets – hit his profits and force him to pay up!