Protesting Thomas Cook workers have made an emotional appeal for public support to prevent their forced removal from company offices.
Last night the protesters, who are locked in a bitter row with the travel giant over redundancy terms, unanimously agreed to defy a High Court ordering them to leave by 7pm.
Over 40 staff, including two pregnant women, have occupied the shop in Grafton Street, Dublin, after management announced the immediate closure of the company's two offices in the city.
About 45 employees voted unanimously to continue the sit-in yesterday despite a ruling by Mr Justice Michael Peart which could see them jailed for their defiance.
Tearful staff member Caroline Cullen said: “We've been told we will be arrested if we are not out until 11am. We are not going.”
Many of the protesters were visibly upset and hugged each other as the decision to defy the order was made just before 7pm last night.
Afterwards they admitted they were fearful of the consequences, but said they felt they had no option but to continue their fight for an improved redundancy package.
Branch manager Wendy Aldron, who has 17 years’ service with the company, said: “I'm overwhelmed that so many young girls with babies would take that stand. I have a little boy who is three and I have not seen him all weekend and I miss him. But I hope that one day he will be proud of his mum.”
Avril Boyne, who is due to give birth to her second child in just 10 days time, was among the first to vow to continue the sit-in. “Can you actually see them sending me, an eight-and-a-half months pregnant woman to jail?
“But if it happens, it happens,” she said.
The 40 mainly female staff have been holding a sit-in since Friday. Thomas Cook, who sought the High Court injunction, says that it is prepared to talk to the workers if they vacate the premises.
The company has insisted it would maintain its Irish business at its back office and call centre operation in Parkwest, Dublin, with 70 positions being retained.