The La Senza and Vita Cortex Occupations Making the Boss Pay

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“When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose’  - Bob Dylan

Last year the word and action, “Occupy”, was imprinted on our minds, from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Zucotti Park in New York. This year Occupy has come home to us in Ireland. Sure, we’ve had the valiant efforts of people bringing attention to the great injustice being visited on us all by camping outside the Central Bank, but the amoral character of the boss class is never better displayed than when you get made redundant.

In “La Senza” in Liffey Valley in Dublin, after working through the busy Christmas season, workers were sacked on Monday 9th of January. The administrators, KPMG, told them to claim any money owed from a government fund, but the workers occupied the premises and insisted on being paid the overtime they were due from December. They won an agreement by the following Friday. 

Meanwhile, in Cork, the 32 workers from Vita Cortex have been occupying that plant for over 50 days (at the time of writing) in an attempt to get paid their redundancy pay of 0.9 week for every year of service. This has been refused by the company, which claims an inability to pay. The owner is a boss by the name of Jack Ronan, who also happens to be a developer who is now residing/hiding in NAMA. Everyone appears to support the Vita Cortex workers in their efforts to get paid their redundancy from this developer. Messages of support have come in from Des Bishop, Alex Ferguson, Paul McGrath and even the government, who appear to have rushed through the statutory part of their redundancy. Over 5,000 people showed up in a protest march through the streets of Cork and Christy Moore played a fundraising gig for them. “Now if only they could get the support of SIPTU”, as a friend of mine joked to me. 

Explaining the Joke

After generations of social partnership we have a trade union movement that is frozen out of the only relationship it knew, and it was an abusive one at that. During the period of partnership, all the deals were done at the top table as negotiators sat around and talked percentages. Going to a local trade union branch meeting became something only the truly committed did. In return for access to the top table, the unions signed many deals that gave away various weapons in their arsenal, like the right to strike. They guaranteed industrial peace and delivered it. Now everything is different. The workers and the ordinary people of this land are being fed into a mincer and the unions appear powerless to intervene. The workers occupied the Vita Cortex plant because they know what is right, they know what justice looks like and they are prepared to fight for it and they couldn’t be sure Jack O’Connor was going to try and fail to sort it out for them.

La Senza and Vita Cortex workers are showing by their actions what needs to be done. Alas this action only comes into place in the end game when workers are being laid off. The Union leadership better figure out a way that we can bring our collective strength into play whilst the boss class continue to make us pay for their mistakes. 


This article is from Workers Solidarity 126, March 2012

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