Workers at the Visteon car components plant in Enfield, north London, have ended their occupation, but are vowing to continue their protest against their unceremonious sacking that took place on Tuesday of last week.
The workers had occupied the plant since last Wednesday. But today, on the ninth day of their inspiring occupation, workers marched out – to cheers and chanting from supporters outside.
It took the workers some time to march down the spiral staircase and out of the building. The occupation had swelled to nearly 200 workers by the time it ended.
They came out and joined some 400 people demonstrating in support of the occupation. There were groups of workers from the RMT, Unison, CWU, UCU and NUT unions and a contingent of about 50 students.
Kevin Nolan, the Unite union convenor at the plant, spoke to the crowd. He said, “I’d like to thank everyone for their support. If Visteon think they can put 600 of us and our families into poverty, they’ve got another think coming. Sometimes you have to stand up and say enough is enough. We won’t give up until we have justice.”
Workers decided to end their occupation after Visteon’s administrator, KPMG, obtained a possession order in the High Court on Monday. There was a serious debate inside the occupation about whether this was the right thing to do. And some workers wanted to continue the occupation. Unite officials advised the workers to come out.
But there is determination to keep up the campaign. “We’ll stay outside the gates until we get something,” June Dunning, one of the occupying workers, told Socialist Worker.
Linda Bartell agreed. “If we give up and walk away now, any package we get offered will be worthless,” she told Socialist Worker.
“They won’t be able to get the tools and equipment out because we’ll be outside. There is a stronghold of people who have been in here all week and they won’t give up.”
The workers were sacked on Tuesday of last week with no notice or redundancy pay. They were not paid for their last week’s work and have no idea what will happen to their pensions. Visteon was directly part of Ford until 2000 and many workers are still on Ford contracts – which guarantee no compulsory redundancies and Ford terms and conditions for life.
They now plan to hold 24-hour pickets outside the gates of the factory and have organised a rota system. They hope that the Unite union can reach a deal that would honour their contracts and give guarantees about their pensions.
Unite officials travelled to the US on Wednesday to meet with Visteon management. These talks will continue on Tuesday of next week, when senior Visteon management from the US are to meet with Unite in London.
The fight will be harder now that Enfield workers have ended their occupation. But it is by no means over.
Together with Visteon workers in Belfast and Basildon, those in Enfield are fighting an inspirational battle against their bosses. It has inspired millions of workers and changed the lives of those involved.
The occupation has transformed people. “It’s opened my eyes,” Linda told Socialist Worker. “I feel like I’ve gone through life with blinkers on – getting on with raising a family and doing the shopping. But now the blinkers have gone.
“People have really put themselves out to help us. The kindness that we’ve been shown – from all communities – hits you in the heart. Everyone has helped each other and we’ve lived as a community in the occupation and it’s changed how people relate to each other.
“We weren’t organised when we came in but that soon changed. Whenever I see anyone with a banner or leafleting in the streets now I’ll go and investigate – I won’t just walk past.”
The fight at Visteon has inspired people up and down the country. There has been fantastic support and solidarity so far – and now this needs to increase.
The struggle at Visteon will have an impact on all workers, who face mounting attacks on their jobs, pensions and pay. It is a priority for the whole trade union movement.
Get delegations down to help on the picket lines and rush donations to the workers.
People should still collect money and send delegations. Rush messages of support to email@example.com or text to Kevin (Enfield) 07956 375 410, Des (Basildon) 07814 432 215 and John (Belfast) 07816 590 380.
This story has been extended since it was originally posted. Watch this site for updates.