The Socialist 30 August 2007 |
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Swansea: Visteon strike threat brings concessions
AS WE go to press, workers in the Swansea Visteon plant are voting on a company offer to settle their long-running dispute. Just a day before a strike was due to happen at the plant on 31 August, management put a proposal which consisted of significant concessions.
By a Visteon steward
The threat to make tradesmen into production operators was lifted. 40 of the 56 temporary workers will be offered permanent jobs and lastly, should the plant be sold off, every worker will receive £875. The shop stewards' committee is recommending acceptance.
But feelings are running high. The last few years of poor treatment by Visteon management have made the workforce suspicious of these concessions. The vote could be very close.
This year on 30 March, Visteon UK management walked into the Swansea plant and ripped up the sourcing agreement and stopped brake disc production. All the disc lines had at least two years left, two lines had at least four years left!
The company tried to justify it because Ford's Leamington foundry was closing but one of the new lines didn't even get their rough stock from Leamington!
Swansea employees immediately voted for an industrial action ballot but regrettably it took 14 weeks from that mandate to the first opportunity to take action. Unfortunately, by then the disc work had gone and over 80 permanent jobs. Should the plant's temporary workers have been laid off, over 150 hourly-paid jobs would have been lost.
The stewards' committee wanted to send a strong message to Visteon management that they couldn't just take work out of Swansea without a fight.
Because the company wanted to make 'excess' skilled workers into production operators, Swansea shop stewards wanted to act on the 'yes' votes for industrial action. They believed that the percentage of temporary workers should be reduced from 15% to 10%, giving some temps the opportunity to get a permanent job.
They also believed Swansea employees should be compensated financially for the company breaking the disc sourcing agreement. How many local manufacturing plants could have kept work if these brutal employers had to pay a penalty price every time they take out work and jobs without agreement?
The union has been accused of organising unofficial action over the last two years but the company responded to this legal, official action with brutal methods.
A 'work to rule' was meant to bring the company back to the negotiating table but while privately indicating that they were prepared to talk, they actually started to put workers 'off pay', the union believes illegally.
Twice recently, the company put assembly workers off pay (literally stop paying and then disciplining them) because they weren't able to produce the normal amount. This is on a line with half the number of its normal plattens (that deliver the work around the line)!
The company's own disciplinary procedures say that groups of individuals cannot be taken off pay together but this was just ignored.
Swansea workers are just told: "We have to prepare you for sale to Linamar" (from Canada). They are starting to worry about what it will be like to work in Swansea whoever owns the plant under these bullying tactics.
Swansea workers have no confidence in Visteon. They want a future which protects jobs, terms and conditions and pensions. Any future talks with Linamar have to give all the detail on these issues.
Despite all the bullying, harassment and intimidation over the last seven years, not just the last couple of weeks, Swansea Visteon workers have fought all the way to defend their jobs and conditions. They have also been to the forefront in supporting other workers in struggle from the firefighters to the postal workers.
Many workers will recognise this story from their own experience. Certainly tens of thousands of car workers know all about how the industry has been devastated by the 'race to the bottom'. The Visteon workers have shown that it is possible to buck the trend by forcing major concessions from management.