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‘The solidarity was electrifying’

This article is over 15 years, 2 months old
Trade unionist John Tipple has been helping to build support for the Visteon workers in Basildon. He told Socialist Worker about the campaign
Issue 2150

‘There will be two versions of how, in 28 days, 600 Visteon workers brought one of the world’s biggest firms to its knees.

The official version will say the Unite union used its industrial strength to force a deal out of Ford.

But the real story of Visteon is how the workers themselves inspired solidarity from thousands of fellow workers.

The dispute quickly became one of the most militant and sustained rank and file campaigns in my memory.

This piled pressure on the union – and only then did Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley place himself at the front.

We must not forget that it was the union leadership that advised Enfield to quit their occupation. This could have proved disastrous.


I have spent hours with the Basildon Visteon workers, helping the campaign.

I have witnessed how this dispute has changed their lives.

No one imagined that they would be picketing bosses’ houses, marching through Basildon, rallying and collecting money in the town centre.

We organised a gate collection at Ford’s tractor plant early on and raised £1,000.

This was an eyeopener and showed that the support for the dispute was spreading.

It was thrilling to watch people take up the invitation to picket Bridgend. This truly was the foot on the throat of Ford.

I visited workplaces in east London with Trevor, a Visteon worker.

We tapped into a network of socialists and trade unionists who were preparing for action or about to ballot for action themselves. The response Trevor received was electrifying. Solidarity is infectious.

Post office staff, Argos workers, PCS, Unite and Unison union members, and local firefighters have been down to the gates. This helped keep up a fighting sprit.

For many of the workers the struggle continues. People should continue the solidarity and keep visiting the workers.

But imagine a hundred disputes like this one.

Our movement is capable of rank and file militancy.

The vital question is: will socialists be able to influence the struggle if the fuse this dispute has lit reaches the powder keg?’

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