Socialist Worker

Visteon workers beat corporate car giant

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2150

Workers from the Visteon occupation in Belfast join a May Day march through the city (Pic: Norman Briggs)

Workers from the Visteon occupation in Belfast join a May Day march through the city (Pic: Norman Briggs)


Visteon workers last week won a massive victory against Ford, one of the most powerful multinational companies in the world.

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

They could have gone quietly and joined the dole queues.

Instead they fought back and won one of the biggest payouts in Ford’s history. This came just days after threatening to spread the action and shut down Ford plants in a move that could have cost the company millions.

Levent Adnan worked at the Enfield site for over 17 years. “This is a great result for us,” he told Socialist Worker. “Ford and Visteon have had their fingers burnt.

“The threat of taking action to Ford’s Bridgend plant was the turning point. They say it is Visteon that is paying but everyone knows it is Ford.

“This offer sets a new benchmark too – if Ford tries to sack workers elsewhere, it won’t be able to get away with it and give people nothing.

“This is a victory for workers.”

Visteon was part of Ford until 2000 and many of the sacked workers remained on Ford contracts.

Ford tried to avoid its responsibilities, claiming that it owed the workers nothing.

But the determination of the workers meant that it could no longer continue with this lie.

Packages

Their action forced the company to offer hundreds of thousands of pounds in packages that go beyond Ford’s standard redundancy terms.

The offer includes a year’s pay plus pay in lieu of notice, as well as a backdated pay rise and a further payout linked to each worker’s age and length of service.

Scott used to work at the Basildon site. “Everybody’s super-chuffed,” he told Socialist Worker. “A lot of people are just surprised that a deal came so quickly.”

Workers voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer – but are also vowing to continue their protests until they see the money.

They are right to do so. The fact that workers have not yet seen a written offer is a concern.

The workers forced a climbdown from bosses through their own determination and initiative.

In Belfast workers are now into their sixth week of occupation. Workers at the Enfield and Basildon factories also occupied and have held 24-hour pickets outside the plants since they came out.

Their fightback was by no means automatic. For workers in Enfield and Basildon, the fact that workers in Belfast refused to leave the plant when they were sacked and occupied was crucial.

“If it hadn’t been for Belfast we wouldn’t have had the idea to occupy,” said Phil Wilson, a worker at the Enfield site. “We owe a big thanks to them.”

People learnt what to do as they went along. The workers faced many hurdles but overcame them all to carry on the fight.

“We have seen our power now,” said Marcia. “At first we just went home as we thought we couldn’t do anything. But then you get home and look at your kids and think, how am I going to feed them?

“You realise you have to fight. When we’re in a group we can move mountains.”

The result is a victory for Visteon workers. But it’s clear that they could have won much more if Unite had been fully behind them from the start and mobilised the whole union behind their struggle.

John McGuire, the Unite union convenor at Belfast, told Socialist Worker, “Financially the deal is good for most people. But there are some workers here who never worked for Ford. For them the deal’s not so good.

Action

“We would rather have our plant open. We should have spread action throughout Ford to save the jobs.

“People are happy with the money because it gives them some breathing space.

“But it’s been an emotional rollercoaster and now everyone has to face the reality of having no job.”

Many workers also want to continue the fight for their pensions.

They are right to be angry with the union leadership. But we should not underestimate the significance of what they have achieved.

“We had nothing before the occupation,” said Anna. “This is about money but it’s also about a principle – that people can’t just be pushed down.

“What happened here is very important for future generations.”


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.