Socialist Worker

Visteon - a jobs fight for all of us

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2148

Belfast Visteon workers protested at the offices of receivers KPMG on Monday of this week (Pic: Norman Briggs)

Belfast Visteon workers protested at the offices of receivers KPMG on Monday of this week (Pic: Norman Briggs)


Building solidarity for the continuing struggle of the sacked Visteon workers is a priority for every trade unionist in Britain.

Their determined fight for jobs and justice has broken through the fear that the growing recession has generated.

It shows that it is possible to fight the mounting attacks on the working class.

Around 600 workers across three sites – in Belfast, Basildon in Essex and Enfield in north London – were sacked with no notice at the end of March.

They have been fighting back ever since.

Workers in Belfast have now entered their fourth week in occupation of their factory. Visteon and its administrator, KPMG, are trying to evict the occupiers.

KPMG had served workers with a notice of eviction stating that they must have left the site by Tuesday of this week.

But the workers and their Unite union decided they would not be intimidated and refused to attend a case at the High Court against them.

The case was due to return to court on Friday of this week.

In Enfield and Basildon, 24-hour pickets of the sites are in place to make sure that no equipment can be removed.

Senior management from Visteon in the US flew to London to meet with Unite unite officials on Wednesday of last week. But the talks delivered nothing.

Bosses tried to palm off workers with a measly offer of 90 days’ pay each. But the unions rejected the offer and workers are vowing to continue their fight.

Kevin Nolan, Unite convenor at the Enfield plant, was at the talks. He told Socialist Worker, “They offered us 90 days’ pay in lieu of our notice, but the union is trying to get that anyway – that’s what they owe us.

“People feel let down – although they have come to expect such things from the company. But we’re determined not to give up.”

Frank Jepson, the Unite convenor in Basildon, agrees. “I think the talks were an exercise in demoralisation,” he told Socialist Worker. “It’s heartless, but I don’t expect anything different. They lifted people’s hopes and then gave us nothing.”

Ford formerly owned Visteon and many workers are still on Ford contracts. They are demanding that these contracts are honoured.

Insult

The offer of 90 days’ pay is an insult. But it is a testament to the workers’ action that they forced the bosses to offer anything

at all. It is vital to ramp up the pressure on both Visteon and Ford bosses if the workers are going to win.

Solidarity action at Ford plants, whether that is strikes or blacking of Visteon products, would transform the dispute and ensure that Ford bosses cannot ignore it.

Roger Madison, a Unite official in Belfast, said last week, “It may well be that our fight has to move on to Ford.”

The Visteon workers are already fighting for this.

They have picketed Ford dealerships and visited the company’s plants to directly appeal to other workers.

Linda Bartell, one of the Enfield Visteon workers, says that the protests at Ford showrooms are having an impact.

“I spoke to one man outside a Ford dealer about our case and made him quite unsure about buying from Ford,” she told Socialist Worker.

“He said that, as a worker himself, he didn’t like how we’d been treated and would have to go elsewhere.”

There will be a national day of action in support of Visteon this Saturday, and the workers want people to organise protests at Ford dealerships across Britain.

This is something that everyone can get involved with. It can give a boost to Visteon workers and keep the pressure on Ford.

Most of the Visteon workers have had little previous experience of struggle, but they have taken the initiative by visiting Ford garages, football grounds, bus garages and union meetings to rally support.

This week Ron Clark from Enfield’s Visteon plant spoke at an 80-strong fringe meeting organised by left wing delegates at the Unison union’s health conference in Harrogate, raising £300.

John McGowan, a Visteon worker from Belfast, spoke to two fringe meetings at the Scottish TUC on Monday of this week. He told Socialist Worker, “I was very well received and people offered a lot of support.”

Unite is in an unrivalled position to build solidarity and to argue to spread the struggle to other groups of workers.

Its national leadership has not done so. Instead, at key points, it has encouraged moves that took the struggle backwards. There is no mention of the Visteon dispute on the Unite website.

In spite of this, Visteon workers continue to strengthen their struggle and forge links with other groups of workers.

The Visteon workers have the power to win – and a victory would strengthen us all in the battles ahead.


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