The occupations and protests against job cuts at Visteon spread this morning from Belfast to sites in Britain.
Some 80 workers have occupied at the car component factory in Enfield, north London, while some 100 workers have been protesting outside the site in Basildon, Essex.
Around 40 workers at Basildon also occupied the plant throughout the day.
Frank Jepson, Basildon convenor for the Unite union, told Socialist Worker, 'People here have given unwavering loyalty for 30 years, only to be treated with complete contempt. The directors of Visteon have behaved despicably.'
The latest protests follow a lead set by Visteon workers in Belfast, who went into occupation yesterday. Workers are demanding action to save over 560 jobs at the three plants.
Visteon’s administrator held meetings at 2pm yesterday at just six minutes’ notice to announce to the workers that almost all of them were losing their jobs.
Enfield worker Vijay Bhatt told Socialist Worker, “They have done this as a cheap way of closing down the company. People were shell shocked in the meeting. But I wasn’t in work so the first I heard about this was on Sky News.”
Rosy Sutherland has worked at the plant for 30 years. She said, “The way we have been treated is appalling. I'm 60, but they have taken my pension. We don’t even know if we will get wages for last week. The are treating us like dirt.”
June Dunning, another worker, told Socialist Worker, “I have been here 33 years. Management have been running this place down for years. It's management that are in debt – but we are paying the price.”
The sackings come despite a promise from Ford, Visteon’s former owner and main customer, that workers would receive the same redundancy deals as those of Ford’s directly employed workers.
One Visteon worker told Socialist Worker that his redundancy had been cut from £30,000 to £9,000 by the company reneging on this deal.
Visteon UK employs some 173 workers at the Basildon plant, 227 in Enfield and 210 in Belfast.
Steve Hart, Unite's regional official, told Socialist Worker, “It is vital to keep the fight going. This is not just about redundancy terms. We won’t stand idly by and let our members be treated like dogshit.”
Basildon workers show their anger
by Esme Choonara
Up to 100 sacked workers gathered outside the Basildon plant on Wednesday morning. Around 40 gained access to the plant and occupied it, with a handful making it onto the roof by late afternoon.
The workers are all bitterly angry at the way they have been treated. Several of those gathered outside the plant said the company didn't even have the decency to inform them of their job losses officially. They were forced to hear the news first from the media or from workmates.
'I've worked here for just short of 30 years and I feel we have been kicked in the teeth,' John Vevers told Socialist Worker.
'We've worked really hard over the years and we've made every efficiency saving the company has looked for – and this is how they treat us. We are fighting for our rights. We will carry on making a noise until we get a result.'
Dave Collins is one of those who occupied the plant. He said,'I was offered around £39,000 to take voluntary redundancy just before Christmas, but I turned it down. I wanted to stay at the company.
'Now I think my statutory redundancy pay will work out at about £8,000 and even then it is going to take weeks to come through.
'That's what you get for 22 years service. Our protest has obviously hit a nerve with others in the same position.'
Dave added that it is ironic that they were sacked just as the G20 was meeting to discuss the economy. 'I hope that we are the biggest possible embarrassment to Gordon Brown,' he said.
Groups of sacked workers stayed outside the factory throughout the day. There was a heavy police presence both outside the plant and on the factory grounds.
Terry Murphy summed up the feelings of many of the Basildon workers when he told Socialist Worker, 'I feel crapped on. We've been sold down the river by Visteon and by Ford.
'Lots of the workers here are in their 50s. How are they going to find another job now? Lots of us are skilled workers, but we don't have any formal qualifications. And no one has even said sorry for what they've done.'
The workers occupying the factory eventually left at about 6pm following several meetings with the administrators and the police.
They were cheered by their colleagues waiting outside. The workers said that they had been threatened with arrest if they didn't leave. They vowed to keep on fighting.
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