Workers staging a sit-in at Thomas Cook on Grafton Street face the prospect of being sent to prison after deciding not to abide by a final court order to vacate the premises by 7pm.

Mr Justice Michael Pearte has made an order requiring gardaí to arrest the workers and bring them before a sitting of the court at 2pm tomorrow.

Mr Justice Michael Pearte will then decide whether to give an order of committal, which would see them being sent to prison.

The workers' legal team have applied to be discharged from representing them because they went against legal advice.

This is the fourth day the 45 workers of Thomas Cook on Grafton Street have continued with a sit-in at the premises.

They are seeking a better redundancy package after management decided to close the office with immediate effect last Friday.

Court order

Mr Justice Michael Peart had given their union representative until 6.30pm to deliver on an earlier undertaking to inform staff of the consequences of breaching the court order.

He also had given time for solicitors representing the staff to get in contact with them and give them legal advice.

The 45 workers were served with an interim injunction on Saturday, ordering them to vacate the premises.

This afternoon in evidence, General Secretary of the TSSA, Gerard Doherty said he only received legal advice this morning and that staff had not received any legal advice.

He gave an undertaking to the High Court that he and his union, the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, will comply with a court order calling on them to vacate the Thomas Cook premises on Grafton Street.

However, he said that he could not guarantee what action the 45 employees would take.

Mr Doherty also gave an undertaking that he would ensure that the staff are fully aware of the court order and the consequences of not obeying that order.

He said he would also make them aware that Thomas Cook has agreed to enter discussions with them, which was outlined in a letter read out to staff yesterday.

Senior Counsel Mark Connaughton said that Mr Doherty's undertakings were not good enough because as a union official he has a legal obligation to take all necessary steps that his members comply with the court order and get them to vacate the premises.

Giving evidence, Mr Doherty said that staff decided, following discussions with management, to forego the 3.5% pay rise agreed under the national agreement on the 8 May but that four days later, management said they would be closing its shops in Dublin.

On 24 July, a secret ballot delivered a 100% vote in favour of industrial action.

He said they had given written notice of their intention to begin industrial action on 7 August, but that management had pre-empted their lawful action when they told staff last Friday the stores were closing immediately. He said he felt the 'gloves were off' at that stage and felt the sit-in was the right course of action.

He denied an allegation of assault made against him by a member of Thomas Cook management, a Mr Sandem. Mr Doherty said that he had given a statement to gardaí but that there was no assault or no intention on his part to assault anyone.

Mark Connaughton SC requested that the court give an order terminating the unlawful activity, which would then allow discussions between both sides to begin.

But John Nolan BL, representing the union and the workers, said 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink'.

Four-day sit-in

The workers at the travel company's Grafton Street store have been occupying the offices since Friday afternoon in their dispute over a redundancy package.

The workers are seeking an improved redundancy package following the company's decision to close the stores.

The company is offering five weeks for each year of service. It says the package is more than it is legally required to offer. The workers are seeking eight weeks for every year they have worked for the company.

The outlets, in Grafton Street and North Earl Street, had been due to close at the end of this month but management decided on Friday to close them, a move that led the workers to stage a sit-in.

About 150 people including Thomas Cook workers, trade union representatives and members of the public held a protest outside the Grafton Street offices earlier today.

A variety of speakers addressed the demonstration including recently elected Dún Laoghaire County Councillor Richard Boyd-Barrett.

Dublin's Lord Mayor, Emer Costello, met with staff to express her support for the stance they have taken.

On Saturday, the High Court gave a ruling ordering staff at the Grafton Street branch to leave the premises.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook says that the sit-in that had been staged at the office of its subsidiary, Direct Holidays on Talbot Street in Dublin, has now ended.

A spokesperson for the company said that the eight workers participating in the sit-in called off their action at 7am this morning.

The company said that the branch will open tomorrow for business at usual.

The branch is due to close for good on 31 August. A spokesman for the union TSSA has confirmed that all workers have left the premises after having received a letter form management about which they are now seeking legal advice.