Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has welcomed the announcement that the Labour Relations Commission has invited both sides in the dispute at the Vita Cortex plant in Cork to meet in Cork next Tuesday. 32 workers at the factory are being denied their rights in an appalling manner at the hands of the company.
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Deputy Martin said: “The manner in which the workers have been treated is absolutely unacceptable and the overwhelming responsibility lies with the management of the company to meet its obligations to the workers. It is important that there is an interdepartmental response from the Government involving the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Social Protection and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. There should be a more proactive response to this dispute. While I welcome the news today that the Labour Relations Commission, LRC, is to hold a fact-finding hearing next Tuesday, this should have taken place earlier and I call on the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to meet the workers and management on this issue.
“The workers have my support as they continue to occupy and sit-in to try to get their rights. They were assured up to 16 December that they would get 2.9 weeks redundancy which, in the context of recent redundancy settlements and over recent years, is a modest and reasonable request from the workers. I call on the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to meet the workers and the management of the company. I call for a cross-governmental response because although the expedition of the application to the social fund will not solve the issue since it only deals with the statutory element, nonetheless it will be an important dimension to help the situation in which the workers find themselves.
“I do not place the ultimate responsibility on NAMA, but nonetheless workers are watching bigger fish in the NAMA field, [with] much bigger deals are being done in terms of hundreds of millions of euro and they are at a loss to understand how €2.5 million is frozen. They believe even a part of this could be released to meet their needs.
“It is difficult for workers in such situations on modest wages to understand the contrast in their perception of how others are being treated in the NAMA field compared with themselves.”
Responding to Deputy Martin, Minister of State Seán Sherlock said: “[Vita Cortex] stated that it informed workers that their redundancy would have to come from the State’s social insurance fund unless NAMA agreed to release €2.5 million held on deposit by another Vita Cortex firm on foot of an AIB loan taken over by NAMA. However, NAMA issued a statement that these funds were put out of reach of the Vita Cortex group not by NAMA but by AIB two and a half years ago when they were pledged as security for loans. While NAMA has stated that it empathises with the Vita Cortex workers, it has stated that: “unfortunately legally it cannot simply use charged deposit funds pledged against loans of one company to meet costs incurred by a separate legal entity”.
Deputy Martin added: “I rang the Minister for Finance before Christmas and he got the Chairman of NAMA to ring me and he said that it would be ultra vires of NAMA to become involved. I would like to get the precise legal basis under the Act upon which it cannot get involved. Having said that, the responsibility lies with the employer. Getting a solution to this for the workers is my primary concern.”