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LETTERS: When our factory closed we occupied – and so can steel workers

This article is over 8 years, 3 months old
Issue 2499


Workers occupying Visteons factory in Enfield, north London, in 2009
Workers occupying Visteon’s factory in Enfield, north London, in 2009 (Pic: Socialist Wroker)

We occupied our Visteon car parts factory in Enfield, north London, in 2009 after we were sacked with no redundancy pay.

I had never done anything like it in my life.

We didn’t have a plan. We hadn’t got over the shock when we met the day after we were sacked.

A door wasn’t locked and it was a bit of luck that we got in. We decided we’d stay because we had nothing else to lose.

At times it was like being on a high. You start to notice what else is happening in the country and the world.

We went out to speak at meetings as we needed support. You’re nervous. You don’t know how to talk because you’ve never stood in front of people.

I spoke to the Turkish centre in Tottenham, north London. A lot of Turkish people came down and supported us. They fed us, they used to have barbecues outside.

One teenage girl walked up and gave me 200 cigarettes for any smokers inside. I was amazed.

All those people were strangers to us. You thought, where have they come from to be so kind?

We ended up getting more than full redundancy payouts. We might have walked out with nothing.

And now I think, people helped us so we should put a bit back. When firefighters were on strike I went and stood with them.

If Tata steel workers were picketing near me I’d go and join them. If they struck or occupied, people would come from all over to support them.

You can fight back. Don’t worry about the law.

They’re taking your livelihood away from you. If you don’t fight for it, it will go. Stick together, be united and don’t sit at home. Fight to save it.

Linda Bartle, Visteon occupier

The threat to Port Talbot steel works points to the growing mismatch between the organisation of capital and workers’ organisation.

Before nationalisation and subsequent privatisation, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC) brought together the majority of steel workers in Britain.

Common organisation did not guarantee automatic mutual support, and the ISTC was led by right-wing bureaucrats, but the potential was there.

Community, descended from the ISTC, organises only a fraction of Tata Steel’s total workforce.

Port Talbot contains a powerful set of workers who, with solidarity, stand a good chance of saving their jobs.

But think what their power would look like if they were organised with Tata workers worldwide.

The rest of us need to watch and learn.

John Shemeld, Nottingham

Stop social cleansing in Haringey

David Cameron’s plan for the mass demolition of council estates must be a key issue in the London elections on 5 May.

Cameron announced in January that “the bulldozing of sink estates” was central to his policy agenda. “We can tear down anything in our way,” he boasted.

Council officers and developers planned the demolitions at the annual Mipim property trade fair on the French Riviera.

Cameron and the demolition lobby promise that tenants will not lose rights after demolition.

But private developers have no funding and no interest in keeping this promise.

The result will be more exclusion and social cleansing. These are the London Clearances.

Haringey council in north London already has 4,687 homes at risk of demolition.

But the council will not discuss the impact of its new Joint Venture company for tenants on the renewal estates.

Nor will it discuss our concerns about rent and service charge increases after demolition.

We need to punish the Tories at the polls for their housing plans.

We need a London mayor who is prepared to stand up against this government, to demand investment in our homes and communities instead of demolition.

Paul Burnham, Haringey Defend Council Housing

Ask the rich some taxing questions

To paraphrase the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the “rich do as they please while the poor suffer what they must”. This has become even more apparent after the leaking of the Panama Papers.

It’s become clear that David Cameron’s father was up to his neck in it.

His fund Blairmore Holdings Inc never paid a penny of tax in Britain on its profits for 30 years, which is morally wrong.

And a number of Tory donors are linked to very sketchy financial arrangements in the British Virgin Islands.

The Tories truly are the nasty party, the party of the rich and privileged.

It’s time we got them out of parliament once and for all.

Remember, whatever they say, we’re not all in this together.

Matt Hockridge, Northamptonshire

Dump the Thatcherites

Three years on Thatcher may be gone but she spawned some hideous minions who are finishing the work she started.

And they are laughing all the way to Panama. Get the truth about her ideology out there and get this unrepresentative elite out of politics.

Den Carter, on Twitter

Corbyn needs paper sellers

Chris Mckenzie asks what Socialist Worker Party members are doing to help Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn—and why we “fart about selling papers”.

We can only help Corbyn by building the grassroots movements that brought him to prominence.

Socialist Worker is a key tool in building these movements. It is one of the few publications defending Corbyn while others try to destroy him.

Dave Ramsden, Bradford

Lessons in Icelandic

One in ten of Iceland’s population were protesting in the streets on Monday of last week.

It was nice to see lots of little Icelanders among them getting a lesson in practical democracy Key Stage 1.

Gary Brane, on Facebook

All out for 16 April demo

Give Support to @socialistworker and @pplsassembly on 16 April.

This will be a chance to stand up, express your voice and unite against the Tories.

Nathan Still, on Twitter

Avoiding tax is beyond me

In the Phillipines they are running tax avoidance workshops.

But workers there get paid less than £5 a day.

Tax avoidance is the reason Greece is up the creek.

That people are ignorant enough to avoid taxes is beyond me.

Liam Yousef McEwan, Glasgow

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