The view on here towards the workers in Vita Cortex and their dispute on redundancy payments, is mixed. On one hand, you have workers who, in some cases, have spent a life-time working for a company which was closed in December on the eve of Christmas and have received redundancy pay of two weeks per year of service, paid for by the State in an accelerated payment in February 2012 from the Social Insurance Fund. The workers claim they were promised 2.9 weeks per year of service and say those terms were given to other staff in the Vita Cortex group made redundant. In protest at their treatment, the workers are now on Day 89 of a sit-in at the factory site on Kinsale Road in Cork. They’ve had visits from politicians and celebrities, and messages of support from around the world. They’ve protested outside the Dail, they’ve appeared on the Late Late show and have done a great job of promoting their grievance and they’ve garnered the sympathy of the nation. They’re back at the Labour Relations Commission later today.
On the other hand, it seems to be agreed that the Vita Cortex group company which employed the staff in Cork doesn’t have the money to pay any redundancy. The 0.9 weeks of additional redundancy payment are said to be worth a total €374,000.The case has already come before the LRC which said “NAMA have to be careful that they also, in their circumstances, are not diluting assets to the benefit of someone who is in NAMA and who probably, privately, has the capacity to pay”. It seems that the wider Vita Cortex group is prepared to making some ex-gratia payments available to the workers – totalling €180,000 according to reports last week, but this offer has apparently been declined.
The “mixed” view comes from the fact that the Vita Cortex group company doesn’t have the funds to pay the redundancy – that has been established by the LRC – and although the 32 workers have put in a total of 847 years of service (an average of nearly 30 years apiece) the sit-in may be preventing some of the younger workers from moving on with their lives.
Meanwhile AIB to which this State has given €20bn during the past three years is making 2,500 of its 23,000-strong workforce redundant and the banking union, the Irish Bank Officials’ Association is negotiating between 5-6 weeks redundancy per year of service. Or to put it another way, if the 2,500 staff have an average of 20 years service each and annual salary of €70,000 they are set to get a total of up to €404m, compared with €60m if they were paid the basic statutory two weeks which is subject to a maximum of €600 per week, as has happened in the case of Vita Cortex. There are suggestions that the AIB deal might also involve some additional concessions to staff with AIB mortgages.
There seems to be something deeply unfair in the disparity of treatment – workers in a manufacturing concern in Cork which was allowed go bust get one third of the compensation that workers in Dublin (mostly) get in a business which would be bust to the tune of nearly €20bn, were it not for state assistance.
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