Over the last eight weeks the people of Cork, Ireland and from further afield have stood in solidarity with the thirty-two former workers of Vita Cortex. Today marks the 57th day of their sit-in as they continue to fight for their entitlements and to receive what they were promised, from a company that they served loyally for 847 years between them. Though the workers never set out to be seen as heroes or role-models they have should firm in the face of abhorrent treatment while being sustained by the belief that their cause is just.
The Vita Cortex struggle represents a microcosm of what is happening in Ireland today. That is – the well connected and wealthy few being allowed to walk away from their responsibilities while the ordinary people of this country are required to shoulder the economic & social burdens that follow. The circumstances are being facilitated by a system that is clearly dysfunctional and inequitable. These thirty-two people would not be living in a factory for 57 days if the rights of workers were really valued by the political & legal system.
The Government and the Office of the Director of Corporate enforcement have stated that there is insufficient grounds for the state to take legal action against the company.Grounds ,to us, implies the basis from which you carry out your investigation. If grounds for an investigation by state have not been established then we have to ask – who holds the responsibility of gathering the evidence needed in order to establish these grounds? Also, the scope and parameters of the assessment made by the Director of Corporate Enforcement should be made available to the campaign as soon possible and we presume that this will be forthcoming.
We believe that business can be about much more than just profit. At the same time, we are not suggesting that profitability is not important – business and the practice of commerce can besocially uplifting, inspiring and of immense value to the wider community. But there cannot be a human-cost to profit. What is right is not always codified by what is written down in law. The fact that we have to rely on the idea of moral responsibility to protect workers is a damning indictment of corporate law in Ireland. There are clearly too many holes and too many back avenues through which extremely wealthy employers can evade responsibility. This has to change.It is incumbent on all leaders, of every political perspective,to change it. But we cannot simply leave it all up to politicians. If justice is blind than it is we, as a society,who must have the vision.
The workers of Vita Cortex were promised 0.9 of a week per year of service, ex gratia by the owners of Vita Cortex. This may be a drop in the ocean in terms of labour relations. However, it represents an issue of respect for workers like Sean Kelleher, Jim Power and Cal O’Leary all who gave over forty years of their lives to the company. Now, we are aware that differing perspectives exist regarding the concept of wealth creation. And this can sometimes be polarised. However,this debate is somewhat circumvented by the the fact that there was a convergence of thought between both poles at 0.9. Therefore, it becomes about the value of one’s word and about the values and qualities we want our society to hold dear.Do we want to send a message to the business community that it is acceptable to give somebody your word and to then turn around walk away from your responsibilities and the promise you made? Honesty and honour should be universal values from which business and commercialism should not be exempt.
This Saturday we will be holding and march & rally in support of the workers. It will start from Connolly hall, Lapps Quay, at 2pm . We are asking everybody to come out and stand with them. Help us to send a message to Jack Ronan. Help us to send a message to law makers and those in control of the system under which we live. That message should be loud, clear and it should read – Enough is enough. We are staying until justice is delivered.
As a society, it is our responsibility to seek out justice no matter how well its had been hidden from us. Join with us in this search on Saturday.
Darren O’Keeffe & Veronica Marshall
Coordinators of the SUPPORT THE VITA CORTEX WORKERS online campaign