Many have been inspired by the stand taken by the workers in the ex-Ford plants in Belfast, Enfield and Basildon. Instead of walking meekly away when their jobs were snatched away by Visteon management, they have taken a stand. Facing nothing but the minimal statutory redundancy payments, the workers have organised factory occupations and pickets to force Ford and Visteon management to negotiate.
Rob Williams, the trade union convenor of the Linamar plant in Swansea, an ex-Visteon plant, has been visiting the occupations.
He spoke to The Socialist:
“If anyone is cynical about the potential power of the trade union movement, they should spend half an hour in one of the occupations. These workers have shown that it is possible to fight back and do something about the many attacks on jobs, pay and conditions.
Visteon workers are not asking for fat cat-style payouts. What they want is what they were promised by the bosses.
What’s happened in Visteon is a warning to everyone. And particularly workers who have got a half decent pension scheme. Companies will be looking at what Ford has done and thinking this is the easy way to dump workers, their jobs and their pensions.
Workers picket Visteon at Basildon, photo Paul Mattsson
For instance GM, who own Vauxhall, is on the verge of bankruptcy protection in the USA. There are thousands of workers in Britain who work for GM in Ellesmere Port and Luton. That’s why it’s in the interests of all workers that the Visteon workers win this struggle.
What came over loud and clear in Belfast is the role that Ford have played. Visteon is a Ford creation which was used to try and attack terms and conditions.
Ford have made hundreds of millions of pounds worth of profit out of Visteon. If those plants had been closed ten years ago when they were Ford plants there would have been a big bill for Ford. They would have had to come out with proper redundancy agreements. Workers would have got access to their pensions.
You can see now the reason behind the creation of Visteon, it allowed Ford to get out of its responsibilities.
But what changes everything now is the occupations. Now these workers are in with half a chance. If they had walked away on that Tuesday this struggle would have been to all intents and purposes over.
Workers picket Visteon at Basildon, photo Greg Maughan
The Unite union leadership should now call on its members in Ford plants and Jaguar Landrover plants not to touch Visteon parts. If the union is then threatened for breaking the anti-trade union laws, the Unite leadership should tell Gordon Brown that they are going to stop funding New Labour.
Since Brown has been prime minister the union has spent £13 million funding New Labour – for what? Look at the power that alone could give the union.
The union leadership has a role in building the confidence of workers in this economic climate, and particularly those 600 Visteon workers.”
If Ford refuse to reopen these plants, they should be nationalised and run under democratic workers’ control and management. They could then be re-tooled to produce ‘green’ vehicles and other products for the benefit of society as a whole.
The Socialist says:
- Visteon workers’ jobs should be saved or transferred to Ford plants.
- Ford should be made to honour the redundancy and pensions agreements of 2000. If they won’t, then Unite should organise an immediate boycott of all Visteon products used in Ford factories.
- If there is any threat to workers carrying out a union-led boycott of Visteon products then Unite should organise an all-out strike of all Ford workers.