The Visteon workers fighting for jobs and justice have put Ford onto the back foot. They are threatening a major escalation in their dispute that would hit Ford’s production in Britain.
This development has forced the car multinational to agree to talks with the workers’ Unite union.
Ford owned Visteon until 2000 and many workers were still on Ford contracts when they were sacked at three sites – Belfast, Basildon in Essex and Enfield in north London – at the end of March.
These contracts promise Ford terms and conditions for life – and the workers are demanding that they are honoured.
Scott is a Unite shop steward at the Basildon plant. “People are very upbeat at the moment because Ford are knocking on our door wanting to talk rather than the other way round,” he told Socialist Worker.
“John Fleming, the boss of Ford in Europe, told us last week that he was willing to take the risk of Ford losing money. But just days later he says he wants to talk.
“Our spirits are up but our defences aren’t down. We won’t let Ford give us a crap offer.
“If we need to we’ll hit Ford hard – and we’ll cost it money.”
Ford initially claimed that the dispute was nothing to do with it and denied that it had any responsibility for the workers.
But pressure from below, combined with the fear that significant sections of Ford workers would actively support them, means it can no longer do this.
Visteon workers are fighting a determined and inspirational battle. Workers in Belfast are into the fifth week of occupation. It is still going strong, despite threats of legal action.
In Basildon and Enfield 24-hour pickets are preventing Visteon and the KPMG administrator from removing any equipment from the sites.
Solidarity and support are continuing to grow.
There have been several protests at Ford dealerships and showrooms that have stopped people buying the company’s cars.
Meanwhile, workers at different companies are continuing to raise money for the struggle. Workers from the 1107 Unite branch at Ford’s Dagenham plant visited pickets at the Visteon site in Enfield last week and handed over a cheque for £500.
Mick Gosling, a former Ford Dagenham worker, went with them. “This dispute is having an electrifying effect on people,” he told Socialist Worker.
“It is galvanising other workers. I can’t stress how important it is for people to visit the pickets and show support. Get up there so that they know they aren’t fighting alone.
“This is a dispute that has to be won – and it can be.”
John Tipple, a Unite member in Essex, has been building solidarity for the workers in Basildon.
“We collected £600 on the streets of the town last Saturday in just a couple of hours,” he told Socialist Worker.
“There was a fantastic support meeting on Wednesday of last week with Visteon workers and people from the UCU, Unite and PCS unions. The dispute has livened people up.
“There is a mood of defiance that is getting stronger – people feel they can get somewhere.”
Visteon workers have been out speaking to union meetings, campaign groups and visiting other workplaces to build support for their fight.
But there is frustration and anger among some workers about the way that their national union officials are operating. Some feel that they haven’t been given enough support and that the union should be doing more.
Worryingly, as Socialist Worker went to press, it was unclear when the talks with Ford were due to take place.
Visteon workers have shown this week how they can win – and they must not allow the talks to derail the momentum of their struggle.
It is the action of ordinary workers that has forced the bosses to negotiate. Stepping up their action will be the best way to make sure that talks deliver something for the workers.
A victory for Visteon workers would show that ordinary people can resist the bosses’ attacks.
It is a key battle for every trade unionist in Britain and we have to pull out all the stops to make sure that they win.
What you can do
- Do a collection and take a delegation to visit the Visteon workers
- lInvite a speaker to your workplace or organisation
- Organise protests at Ford dealerships
- Build Unite’s national march for jobs in Birmingham on 16 May
- Text messages of support to Kevin (Enfield) 07956 375 410, Frank (Basildon) 07535 417 418 or John (Belfast) 07816 590 380