N Ireland/Britain: Support Visteon workers!

Basildon, Belfast and Enfield plants occupied after put into administration

All the Visteon plants that have been put into administration – Basildon, Belfast and Enfield – and are being occupied by car plant workers (Wednesday 1 April 2009).

These ex-Ford workers are protesting against being sacked and left to claim statutory redundancy form the state. Even workers with over 30 years service will only get about £9,000 and most workers a lot less. Also, their pensions plus those of ex-Visteon workers in Swansea and retirees, will go into the Pension Protection Fund, which will result in reduced payments. This is the brutal side of capitalism – no bailouts or bonuses like the bankrupt fat cats get – but bare minimum pay outs and the dole [unemployment benefits]. Visteon UK executives have jumped ship and are now employed by their own spin-off ’Visteon Engineering Services’. A life raft for rats escaping the sinking ship!

200 workers have been occupying their plant in Belfast since Tuesday and, as of Wednesday, 1 April, are in sole control of the plant as the administrators and security guards have been forced out.

Workers at Enfield have been up on the roof of their plant since Wednesday morning, with workers and supporters giving support and cheering from below. They are chanting, “Ford jobs for life” which they were promised but instead have been thrown out of work. Workers worked the early shift on Tuesday only to be told at the end of the shift that the plant was in administration!

Basildon were given just 6 minutes notice that the plant would close!

Workers occupied the plant at Basildon, supported by more than 70 others outside. Many have worked there for more than 20 years and have big mortgages and families to support. The workers were protesting at Visteon Customer Technology Centre the next day, which is still working and where some work from Basildon is being sent.

Visteon was spun-off by Ford in 2000 as a device to slash costs at the expense of the workforce. Two and then three-tier contracts then followed, as well as outsourcing of ’indirect’ jobs. However, for Visteon bosses this wasn’t enough. They’ve spent the last 3 1/2 years demanding that Visteon workers break their Ford ’mirrored’ contracts. No doubt there will be some in the unions who will agree with management that if only the workforce had agreed cuts in their pay, pensions, terms and conditions, insolvency could have been avoided. The reality is, however, that Visteon, like General Motors’ spin-off Delphi, was never viable. Visteon workers were correct to resist and have had at least more income by doing so. It was that successful battle that has given the Belfast workers the confidence to resist now.

These workers want to put pressure on Ford to intervene to stop the sackings. They are appealing to the unions in Ford to support them by not using parts shipped in to replace those from Belfast. If that fails, the occupation can be built to involve the trade union movement and working class community to force the government to intervene to nationalise Visteon to save these jobs.

We demand:

Put pressure on Ford to intervene: retain the jobs or honour the redundancy agreement

Ford should secure the pensions of workers

If necessary, the government should intervene in the same way they bailed out the bankers!

Car plants should be nationalised and tooled up for alternative production, if necessary

Messages of support / offers of help to John Maguire, Belfast Unite Convenor – 07816590380

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April 2009