Socialist Worker

Visteon occupation—giving Ford a bloody nose

Sadie Robinson looks back ten years on from reporting on a workers’ occuption at Visteon car parts factory

Issue No. 2647

Workers inside the Enfield occupation

Workers inside the Enfield occupation (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Ten years ago this month a few hundred workers occupied their factories—and humbled one of the biggest multinationals in the world.

On 31 March 2009 workers at three Visteon car components plants were sacked with immediate effect and told they would only receive statutory redundancy pay.

Ford had created Visteon in 2000, promising workers their conditions would be protected. By 2009 it was washing its hands of them. Yet within weeks workers’ action forced Ford to offer tens of thousands of pounds in redundancy packages.

Visteon worker Ron said after the victory, “We set out to give Ford a bloody nose—and we did it. There were just 600 of us.

“A small group of workers has pushed back a multinational company. We’ve shown that workers can win.”

Many workers hadn’t taken industrial action before. They were Unite union members but they drove the action, not the union.

Refused

The Belfast occupation lasted seven weeks. In Basildon, Essex, it was over in hours, and in Enfield, north London, workers ended their occupation on the 9th day. But they refused to leave the sites and blockaded them.

People completely new to organising drew up 24-hour picket rotas, took charge of donations and dealt with the media.

They toured union branches to speak at meetings and win support.

And they went to Ford factories—terrifying the bosses.

Ron said, “People often think they can’t do anything, but they can. We soon got organised. You learn as you go along.”

The action didn’t save jobs. But it showed that it’s worth fighting.

Levent had worked at the Enfield site for over 17 years. “This is a massive result,” he said. “Ford and Visteon have had their fingers burnt. I feel different now. It’s like we’ve been against the system.”

“We have realised our power,” added Marcia. “At first we thought we couldn’t do anything. But 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.”

Taking action didn’t just boost workers’ confidence. For many, it transformed how they see the world.

“It’s opened my eyes,” said Linda. “I feel like I’ve gone through life with blinkers on—raising a family and doing the shopping. But now the blinkers have gone.

“People really put themselves out to help us. Whenever I see anyone with a banner or leafletting in the streets now I’ll go and investigate—I won’t just walk past.”

Chris added, “Before this I would have seen protesters as just people looking for a fight. But these are the people that have backed us up.”

Pensions

As attacks on jobs, conditions, pay and pensions continue, the experience of Visteon shows that it is possible to snatch something back from the bosses.

Ian had worked for Visteon for 20 years and never struck before. “But you just have to do it—you have to stand up and be counted,” he said. “You will definitely get local support.

“It’s not as hard as people think.”

Phil said, “When we were sacked we had everything knocked out of us. But we’re more confident now because of what we’ve done.

“I’d say to other workers —just stand up and be heard and fight.

“I’m so proud that I’ve been a part of this.”


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