The Vita Cortex workers’ struggle
The following piece first appeared on the éirígí site on February 7:
Since December 16th last, the resilient workers of Vita Cortex have braved the undesirable conditions of having to squat in the cold, damp and poorly ventilated warehouse of their former employers in order to demand their just rights from millionaire boss Jack Ronan, and to expose his betrayal of the workers to the public.
As anyone that has visited the workers can assure you, this is not a decision they have taken lightly. Yet despite the inconvenience of their new residence, the agony of being apart from their families and the obvious stress and strain the situation has brought upon them, they remain determined with their spirits unbroken.
But these thirty-two workers, with a combined 847 years of service to the company are not making any unjustifiable demands from Mr. Ronan. All they are asking for is 0.9 weeks pay for every year worked, with the Twenty-Six County government having committed to paying the extra two weeks per years service as agreed to in the Labour Relations Court late last year.
In addition to Vita Cortex, which operates on eight sites in both the Twenty-Six and Six Counties, Ronan has a 300-acre stud farm, two crèches, various plots of development land, a piggery, an extensive residential property portfolio, a retail park, forestry, a couple of supermarkets, a furniture factory in England, and a boar station. He has 27 directorships listed with the Companies Registration Office and won the Irish Field “breeder of the year” award last August for a racehorse called Cape Blanco. With such a vast amount of wealth, the €1.2 million he agreed to pay the workers will undoubtedly not cause him too much hardship.
Over the past few weeks the Vita Cortex 32 have upped their campaign, and began to confront Ronan and fellow shareholder (and father-in-law) Seán McHenry by picketing their homes. Mr. McHenry was quoted as saying, “It’s not very pleasant for my wife and family… But we’ll see it through.”
Commenting on the workers’ situation, Labhras Ó Tuama of éirígí Corcaigh stated, “I’m sure the inconvenience of having the reality of the workers’ struggle brought to your doorstep pales in comparison to the hardship that the workers themselves, and their families, have to endure. Such shameful remarks prove that these men that have benefited from the labour of others are completely out of touch with reality, and are incapable of showing any empathy to the working classes.
“éirígí will continue to stand in solidarity with the Vita Cortex workers, and all other workers who seek to reap the fruit of their own labour, and we urge all working class people to support them in any way they can.
“100 years ago, William Martin Murphy and fellow Dublin capitalists crushed the workers’ struggle with the force of the state and law. Great men like James Connolly and James Larkin became icons of labour movements worldwide, and today it is the Vita Cortex 32 that are inspiring workers in similar situations to stand up for their rights and to rally the cry of Connolly and Larkin, ‘The great only appear great because we are on our knees. Let us arise’.”