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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 April 2009

Visteon workers stand up to bosses

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Greg Maughan

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Greg Maughan

The struggle of the Visteon workers at the Basildon, Enfield and Belfast plants continues into its fourth week as the workers remain determined to force the employers to honour their contracts.

The talks between Visteon and the union (Unite) last week resulted in a totally unacceptable offer which the workers turned down, so the fight goes on.

Most of these workers transferred from Ford to Visteon with the promise of Ford terms and conditions for the duration of their working life at Visteon, including Ford pensions and Ford redundancy payments should the work dry up.

These terms and conditions were never willingly handed over to Ford workers but were won by years of struggles and battles.

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Matt Dobson

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Matt Dobson

When Visteon went into administration on 31 March its workers, many of whom have worked for Ford and Visteon for over 30 years, were treated no better than industrial workers 200 years ago. They were given six minutes notice to leave the factories and told by the administrators KPMG that they would not be getting their agreed redundancy pay or pensions. The bosses' pensions are protected though.

This is nothing less than daylight robbery. Redundancy pay and pensions are the minimum the workers should receive, taking into account the huge profits they have made for Ford and the proportion of wages they have paid each month for their pensions.

The angry workers refused to walk away and, following the example of Belfast workers who occupied their plant as it went into administration, Basildon and Enfield also occupied. Following aggressive action from police at the Basildon plant, workers there decided to change tack and end the occupation, but have been picketing the plant around the clock ever since.

Enfield workers occupied their factory for nine days. In very difficult conditions and following a court order to repossess the factory, they ended the occupation but immediately set up pickets on each gate. No machinery has left either factory and some of the Enfield workers who had been kept on by the company did not cross the picket line when they were told to report for work.

So far, talks have taken place between Unite and Ford in the US and with Visteon in London. Further talks are scheduled with Ford this week. None of these talks would have taken place if the workers had not decided to make a stand.

Support

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Neil Cafferkey

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Neil Cafferkey

Workers have received huge support. Messages of support and donations continue to come in from other workers, trade unionists - both here and abroad and the local communities. There may be scant reports on this action in the major newspapers but news of these struggles has spread rapidly and will give others in this situation the determination to fight back.

Visteon was created in 2000 to take over a number of Ford plants that made car parts but from the outset Visteon was never viable. It appears that certain Visteon plants were run down with work going to other plants abroad where labour was cheaper. It is believed that Visteon executives now plan to re-open one of the plants using cheaper and even temporary labour.

Workers often need to defend their hard-won wage levels and rights, which at times means opposing their jobs going to plants where pay and conditions are worse or have been undermined. Ford should re-open the three factories in the UK and pay decent rates to all their workers.

These workers should demand access to Visteon and Ford's accounts to analyse how these plants have been run and see what has really happened to the profits.

If Ford refuses to re-employ the workers, the government should nationalise the plants. The skills of these workers should not be lost and if necessary the plants should be re-tooled for alternative production.

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Greg Maughan

Basildon sacked Visteon car workers demonstrate, photo Greg Maughan

Visteon tried to wipe its hands of any responsibility to its workers when the three plants became the concern of the administrators. Ford pretend that the plants are nothing to do with them. They conveniently explain that neither Visteon or Ford have any legal obligation to honour workers' contracts.

So while it seems perfectly legal to break workers' contracts, it is illegal to occupy your factory. The courts decided that if the workers at Enfield refused to end their occupation then each worker could face up to two years in prison and the possible loss of any assets. One law for the bosses and another for the rest of us.

These workers are organising demonstrations, speaking at meetings, protesting outside Ford showrooms. What is also needed is for workers in Ford plants to take action to assist Visteon workers.

Ford workers, by refusing to use Visteon parts, can really hurt Ford's profits. However the Unite leadership needs to ensure that any necessary industrial action that proceeds from such a boycott must be backed by the union so workers are not left isolated.

While Unite donates millions to the Labour Party, workers are asking what they get in return. Unite should demand that if the government does not intervene to save the jobs and conditions of these workers then the union will stop funding New Labour. This Labour government has nationalised banks and bailed out the rich but proposed nothing for these workers.

Alternative to Labour

NO2EU Press conference as RMT launches Euro challenge in 2009, photo Suzanne Beishon

NO2EU Press conference as RMT launches Euro challenge in 2009, photo Suzanne Beishon

The RMT rail union is backing an alternative to Labour in the Euro elections to oppose European Union directives which seek to attack wages, jobs and conditions, allowing greater profits for big business (see page 5).

Many workers at the Enfield and Basildon plants are supporting this No2EU electoral challenge which the Socialist Party is part of. The Basildon Visteon convenor and the Enfield deputy convenor have added their names to the list of candidates standing in London and the Eastern region.

This dispute, alongside the successful struggle of the Lindsey workers earlier this year, indicates that workers are prepared to stand up to the bosses and fight back.

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In The Socialist 22 April 2009:

Fight the cuts!


Environment and socialism

New Labour's environmental ploy: How green are electric cars?


Visteon

Visteon workers stand up to bosses

Taking the Visteon struggle forward

Basildon workers picket Ford showrooms

Solidarity with the Visteon Workers

Enfield workers say: "Do a Visteon!"

Disbelief at Visteon bosses' offer


Socialist Party election campaign

European elections: a workers' alternative to New Labour takes shape

No2EU - yes to democracy


Socialist Party youth and students

Youth Fight for Jobs


Socialist Party campaigns

G20 Summit death: Independent inquiry into police violence, now!

Tesco: Every billion helps

CIA torture


International socialist news and analysis

Tamil action to stop the war continues

Ireland: Budget savages workers


Marxist analysis: history

Betrayals that led to Thatcher's victory

Hillsborough - 20 years on


Socialist Party workplace news

Stead McAlpin: Protesting in London

Unison: a fighting and democratic union needed

Postal workers' solidarity action

Wales FE funding: Victory, but keep the champagne on ice

National Shop Stewards Network conference

Saturday 27 June


 

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