The night before you go back to work after the Christmas holidays is always a funny night. I’ve been sending and receiving the usual texts from my friends, conveying equal amounts of adversity to the impending ‘first day back’ tomorrow.
However in my Dad’s (Cal O’Leary) whole 44 years of his working life, I never heard him once complain about going back to work, and I mean not once. He loved his job, he respected his colleagues and friends at Vita Cortex, and he was content with being able to provide for his family. A simple man, with very little demands. His daily working life was enjoyed in his own office…’his truck,’ along with his co-pilots Ian Dempsey, then Pat Kenny and then Joe Duffy. Every day, every week, every year, happy out and just getting on with his job. He was a loyal and very hard worker.
Once a year, he took me and my brothers and sisters to work with him, all the way up to Dublin and back in his truck. The excitement was something else. It’s a big deal as a kid to go to work with your Dad and we just loved it. My Mom gave us our packed lunch for the day ahead and dropped us to meet our Dad at roughly 6am. We always had an adventure on those days and the packed lunch was eaten by 9am with the excitement. My Dad would bring us to Supermac’s or the midway point in Portlaoise as a treat and we’d share in turns hanging out in his cabin in the back.
I have many many great memories of my Dad and Vita Cortex and the injustice that is shown to him today will not take any of those away. What it may do though is take the good out of my Dad’s own memories, out of his long loyal service with this company. A company, who has disregarded him and his 31 colleagues so badly, treated them with such little respect and had them spend nearly 2.5 weeks now away from their families, fighting for their dignity and rights.
The gathering of 500+ people at Vita Cortex yesterday was an overwhelming symbol of support and a sign that we are all not going to take this form of ill treatment from employers such as Jack Ronan and Sean McHenry. I’m not sure how they can continue on with their lives knowing they have insulted and are continuing to insult their entire Cork staff.
I hope this comes to an end soon. I hope that Ronan’s and McHenry’s conscience gets the better of them. My Dad (aged 62) and his colleagues are tired. But they are also strong and brave, and have the backing of their families, friends, politicians and online supporters from Cork and all over the globe. We need to keep this going. It can happen to anyone of us tomorrow. Let’s not just lie there and take what is given to us by bad employers or the state but let’s stand up and be heard. We have never been prouder of our Dad and on behalf of my Mom Lilian, my sister Vivien, my brothers Allan and Callaghan and extended family and friends, we want to say how proud we are of you Dad and all your co-workers for being so strong. We’re all behind you, all the way.
Jude O’Leary is Cal’s daughter