Sacked workers at Visteon have rejected a pathetic offer from bosses and are continuing their fight for jobs and justice.
Senior management from Visteon in the US flew to London to meet with Unite union officials on Wednesday. They offered workers just 90 days pay each – in place of the 90 days notice that they should have given the workers in the first place.
This is about one thirtieth of what some workers would receive if their contracts were honoured.
The workers, at sites in Belfast, Basildon in Essex and Enfield, north London, were sacked with just minutes notice at the end of last month. They were given no redundancy pay and some were not paid for their last week’s work, after Visteon claimed it had no money to pay them. Pensions that some had paid into for 40 years now hang in the balance.
Kevin Nolan, Unite convenor at the Enfield plant, was at the talks on Wednesday. “They offered us pay in lieu of our notice but the union is trying to get that anyway – that’s what they owe us,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We were in shock. I could understand it if the whole company had gone bankrupt but it hasn’t. I told Dorothy Stephenson [senior vice president of human resources at Visteon] that I should have brought my daughters to the meeting so she could explain how she was going to feed them.
“People feel let down though they have come to expect such things from the company. But we’re determined not to give up.”
Workers in Belfast are continuing their occupation of their plant, which has now entered its third week. Those in Enfield and Basildon are holding 24-hour pickets of their sites to stop the administrator KPMG from removing any of the equipment.
The workers are demanding that their contracts are honoured and want assurances about their pensions.
Raymond Dixon is a shop steward for Unite at the Enfield plant. “The offer is disgraceful and we will stay until we get something better,” he told Socialist Worker. “It can be hard sometimes but people are determined.
“It helps when other people come up to the pickets or when we go and speak to meetings because having conversations with other workers helps keep our morale up.
“The bosses’ strategy is to try and wear us down. It’s very important that we keep going.”
The offer of just 90 days’ pay is an insult. But it is a testament to the action that workers have taken that bosses were forced back to the negotiating table and that anything was forced out of them at all.
Visteon workers are taking their fight to others, particularly at Ford. Ford employed the Visteon workers before the company was sold off in 2000, and many remain on Ford contracts.
Pickets of Ford dealerships have been held across the country and Enfield workers have visited Ford’s Dagenham plant to make links with workers there.
Roger Madison, a Unite official, said this week, “It may well be that our fight has to move on to Ford.”
Kevin Nolan agrees. “We want Ford to come to the table,” he told Socialist Worker. “We will be organising pickets of Ford garages up and down the country to get our message across, and we’re asking all our supporters to join us.”
Rank and file action by ordinary Visteon workers and their supporters has been crucial. The national leadership of Unite has, so far, failed to deliver real support for the Visteon workers.
Unite is the biggest union in Britain. It is in a position to build solidarity for the Visteon workers and to argue to spread the dispute to other groups of workers.
It has not yet done so. Instead, at key points during the struggle, it has encouraged moves that took the struggle backwards.
Meanwhile Visteon workers have done a fantastic job in organising the occupations and pickets and building solidarity. Their union should be backing them up.
It is vital to increase the pressure on Visteon and Ford bosses in the next few days. The struggle at Visteon is a ray of hope for all workers who are facing attacks on their jobs, pay and pensions. It is in all our interests to make sure they win.
- Raise collections and take delegations from your workplace or organisation to the Visteon plants.
- Invite a Visteon speaker to your workplace or organisation to publicise their fight
- National day of action – Saturday 25 April – protests at Ford dealerships across the country.
Visteon workers urgently need donations and messages of support. Rush messages of support to [email protected] or text to Kevin (Enfield) 07956 375 410, Frank (Basildon) 07535 417418 John (Belfast) 07816 590 380