Socialist Worker

Revealed: Ford-Visteon planned closure 8 years ago

Issue No. 2149

Socialist Worker can reveal secret plans going back as far as 2001 to shut at least one of the plants at the heart of the current Visteon dispute.

We have previously reported how Visteon bosses drew up plans in 2007 to run down the plants in Belfast and Enfield, north London.

New documents in our possession now reveal that the plans to close Visteon’s Belfast plant were discussed as far back as 2001.

In a secret plan known as “Project Stone” drawn up in May 2001, Visteon compiled three different options for closing the Belfast factory and produced comprehensive plans for where Visteon’s Belfast’s products would be outsourced.

Project Stone proposed three “alternative strategies” for Visteon Belfast.

The first was “to allow current products to run out in 2007 with no new business coming into the plant”.

The second was to close in 2001 and “exit the pumps business and transfer air/fuel products to a Visteon facility in Central Eastern Europe”.

A third option was to “downsize” the plant.

Challenged by the sacked workers, the company admitted last week that “Visteon initiated a study to investigate its options for ‘fix, sell or close’ strategies for the plant code named ‘Project Stone’. Efficiency and cost reduction actions were taken as a result.”

Resistance

The documents make clear that the company also weighed up the possibility of resistance to closure.

In a “Risk Explanation” outlining problems that may arise during closure, the Project Stone report said that in the event of closure in 2001:

“Risk of industrial dispute is high because strategy is not in line with the EWC [European Workers’ Council] agreement.

“Risk to the customer [Ford] is high because of the likely-hood of industrial action and/or sabotage.”

In the case of closure in 2007 it predicted, “Risk of industrial dispute is low. Risk to the customer is medium because morale inside the plant will decline as time goes on.”

Another document from 2001 shows that Visteon’s radiator plant in Basildon was considered not “competitive” from its formation. It was earmarked for job cuts.

Other documents have recently emerged that shed light on the real nature of the relationship between Ford and Visteon. Ford set up Visteon in 1997. It became a separate company in 2000. Ford outsourced much of its work to Visteon.

Ford now says the recent job cuts at Visteon are not its problem. This is despite workers saying they are still on Ford contracts that guarantee no compulsory redundancies and protection for their pensions.

Documents obtained by Socialist Worker show that Alan Mullally, chief executive officer of Ford international, was involved in discussions over production at the former Visteon/Ford plant in Swansea in November last year.

This adds to the evidence, which shows that the workers are right about Ford and its role at Visteon.


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