Factory occupation wins

Irish workers who occupied their factory after being laid off have won the redundancy payments their millionaire boss initially refused to give them.

The former employees of the Vita Cortex foam manufacturing plant in Cork have ended a 150-day occupation of the plant after their union, Siptu, helped negotiate a substantial redundancy package.

Siptu officer Gerry McCormack said: “The workers are very pleased that after four months campaigning to secure equitable and fair redundancy payments, which take account of their long years of service at Vita Cortex, they can now return to their normal lives satisfied they achieved their objective.”

Greg Marshall, who had worked for the company for nearly 40 years and was one of the workers participating in the sit-in, compared the heroism of the Vita Cortex workers to the spirit of Jim Larkin, James Connolly and the fighters of the 1913 Dublin labour war.

In an article on the workers’ website, Marshall wrote: “I played it over and over in my head. How could we make history? We are just ordinary people. Not like those heroes of old. But […] we decided to fight for justice. When we stood up to fight we had no way [of knowing] how it would end, or how we would survive like those 1913 workers. But they were different to us, they had great men like James Larkin and James Connolly to light the way, to be their heroes, we were on our own in those first few days and we certainly could have used some inspiration from big Jim.

“But as word of our occupation spread, as the Facebook page and Twitter gained momentum and the media covered the story, our Larkins and Connollys emerged from Ballyphehane, from the wider Cork community, from across Ireland and indeed across the seas.”

The Vita Cortex workers’ victory should inspire other groups of workers, including the locked-out Mayr Melnhof Packaging workers from Bootle, Merseyside, to continue their fight.

It shows that courageous direct action, resolve, and working-class solidarity can win.