AFTER ALMOST 15 months of threats and intimidation under the name of 'negotiations', workers at Visteon, Ford's parts organisation, finally appear to be facing the crunch. At the national talks with the unions, chief financial officer Jim Palmer from the US parent company put the loaded gun to the head of two thousand workers and their families - break your contracts and accept worse terms and conditions or the company goes insolvent!
However, the battle-hardened shopfloor has immediately responded in Belfast, Swansea and Enfield. Workers in Swansea stopped the plant for 20 hours in a sit-in on 8 November.
They are furious that their hard-won terms and conditions are under threat just six years after they were spun-off from Ford. They were promised 'lifetime protection' - that their contracts would mirror Ford contracts.
It's a similar lie that workers on the Visteon new hire contracts were told after spin-off. They believed that the pay gap between the two groups of workers would close - it started at 10% but now it is at 20%! These workers are in the process of balloting for a pay claim that was due on 1 March, while workers on the lowest tier have been waiting five months for theirs!
Alec Thraves spoke to the Swansea plant joint convenor, Rob Williams, who spoke to the socialist in a personal capacity:
"Swansea workers are determined to fight any attempt to change their contracts. The hard lesson that we have learned over the last six years is that 'concession bargaining' doesn't work. You don't make your job more secure by continually bending the knee to management, you just make them more confident to demand more.
Now they want to cut our terms and conditions by threatening to go into administration. But if we give in, they'll be back for more. It's a scandal that these companies can trade internationally but cut their losses - my members' jobs and pensions - when it gets a bit tough.
They are telling us in Swansea that we're for sale. But we've told the company - our terms and conditions aren't for sale - to them or anyone else.
In any negotiations with Visteon and a new buyer, we'll be looking at guarantees on our contracts, pensions and a secure future for our members.
The recommendation from the national trade union committee is to reject the package of concessions and we have to convince every member to vote 'no' in the ballot. But we can't leave it there.
A massive vote to reject must be followed by a legal challenge on the basis that the company are breaking our contracts if the Ford pay claim isn't honoured on 24 November. There should be an immediate ballot for industrial action amongst Ford-mirrored workers.
Competitive Cost Rate (CCR) contracted employees should then be balloted on their pay claim as well so that all three tiers of members - Ford-mirrored, Visteon new hires and CCR contracts will be united in taking industrial action.
The company will then threaten insolvency and we don't take that lightly. But we can't just wait for the company to act. The union side must be ready to act instantly if we think administration is likely.
Then an appeal should be issued to workers in Ford and Ford-owned companies for support. That could be about 20,000 workers, who would also be warning Ford about any future cost-cutting measures.
Visteon, like GM spin-off Delphi in the USA, was never a viable company. The company blame accumulated losses of $500 million since 2000 on our members. But how can you make a profit when we buy castings for our brakes from Ford then sell them the finished product?
We buy at Ford prices but sell at Visteon prices! The reality was that Ford didn't want to sack 3,000 workers and close four plants in 2000 so they set up Visteon and they've plundered it ever since. Now those workers' jobs, terms and conditions and pensions are on the line. There's no alternative but to fight."
WORKERS AT Jaguar car plants at Halewood, Castle Bromwich, Coventry and Whitley have voted to reject a pay deal by 1,878 votes to 2,101. But the leadership of their union, TGWU, have decided that "the company's offer was one they could recommend". So the negotiators are continuing with further consultations with shop stewards before they decide what to do next.