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Posted on 4 April 2009 at 0:00 GMT

Visteon workers picket plant - Update

Workers at Basildon were given six minutes notice that they were fired. In fact some carried on working unpaid for up to an hour before they were told they had been sacked!

Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party

One man was off sick and delivered his sick note to the office at 11.45; at 12 noon he was sacked. He only found out when one of his colleagues rang him later on.

From Wednesday morning the workers occupied the plant, supported by around 100 others outside. Shock and outrage are palpable on the protest. They've been sacked with no notice and no guarantees of any money.

When the workers were moved over to Visteon by Fords they were promised Ford terms and conditions and a job for life. Some had brought the letters with that guarantee on it to the factory gates and could not believe that it had turned out not to be worth the paper it was written on. Their ID cards still say "Fords".

Many of the men had worked there for 20 and 30 years. Some brought their "30 years' service" commemorative vases to the picket. They have families and big mortgages. One guy had been to see his mortgage company already, who had told him they didn't want to evict people from their homes, and extended his mortgage till he is 75.

Others were ringing up the job centre for appointments to start their entitlement to money and support with mortgage and rent, and couldn't get through due to the high volume of calls.

One worker said "This is all I've done for 30 years. They don't use the machines we use in here anywhere else. I'll end up collecting trolleys in Tescos." Another had saved a few thousand pounds to help pay for his children's tuition fees - now that will have to be sacrificed.

Rumours abound about management securing their own pensions and even setting up a separate company to look after themselves, while treating the workforce like dirt. Workers feel that they have bent over backwards to keep the plant going, taking cuts in pay and bonuses, working beyond what was required of them to get work done, and now that's all been thrown back in their faces.

Some say they've learned the hard way that all the bosses' talk about partnership and making sacrifices together for the good of the company means nothing - its just raw exploitation.

Heavy-handed policing and threats of arrest forced the workers reluctantly to come out of the factory on Wednesday evening. But they were back on mass next morning to protest at Visteon Customer Technology Centre, just up the road from the Basildon plant.

This is allegedly an 'independent' company. In reality it is another way of silting off Visteon profits to make it look like Visteon itself has been making a loss. The VCT centre is still working, and Visteon workers protested at it to call for support from the workers inside. Some workers did come out to join the protest. The building was protected by two rows of armed police and managers were escorted to their BMWs by three policemen each.

The Basildon workers rightly call for solidarity from Fords workers, especially at Dagenham, not far down the road.

Union officials visited the picket to promise full support as they go into discussions with Fords Europe, to demand that either Fords should take the plants back and give the workers their jobs back, or to pay up their redundancy entitlements in full. They promised to support the protest action and fund it (ie the food etc) and also to mobilise Fords workers.

The report that Fords workers at Bridgend are blacking Visteon parts was met with a roar of approval. That needs to be spread to all Fords plants, along with other solidarity action. At the end of the second day everyone was buoyed up and ready for further pickets and protests, in particular aiming to stop anything being removed from the plant.

The Basildon workers are maintaining a round-the-clock picket at the factory gates, determined to ensure nothing leaves the plant - no machinery and no finished products. A local firm has given them pallets for their brazier, they have a rota established, and the gates are festooned with angry banners. They are determined to see this through to the end.

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