By Sadie Robinson
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Unite conference: Visteon pensions, agency and migrant workers

This article is over 11 years, 7 months old
Issue 2204
Ex-Visteon workers demand pensions justice at the conference  (Pic: Socialist Worker)
Ex-Visteon workers demand pensions justice at the conference (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Ex Ford-Visteon workers lobbied the Unite union conference on Wednesday lunchtime.

The workers were transferred from Ford to Visteon in 2000 with promises that their pensions would be guaranteed. They were then sacked in 2009 at a few minutes notice.

That sacking led to the successful occupations and campaigns at Belfast, Enfield and Basildon. But although the company was forced to pay up redundancy money, it has refused to honour their pension rights.

Workers want the union to launch a legal challenge against Ford. They came from Northern Ireland, Swansea, Basildon in Essex and Enfield, north London, to lobby Unite.

John Elvins worked for Ford and Visteon in Swansea for 39 years. He has lost almost 40 percent of his pension. “Ford duped us into transferring our pension to Visteon,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I want the union to take action and I think there is a case for legal action. The company has stolen my livelihood and my future.”

Trevor Bull worked at the Basildon site for 20 years. “It’s tough being a relatively younger worker,” he said. “My biggest worry is wondering what my pension will look like in 15 years time. I reckon I’m looking at only getting a third of it.

“We want Ford to take us back into their pension fund. It wouldn’t be expensive for the company – it’s doing well in Europe.

“I think this could be a test case for pensions.”

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, came out to address the crowd. “The support of this union is 100 percent behind you,” he told them. “We’re working on a legal angle we can use against Ford.”

He claimed that the time Unite was putting into the dispute at British Airways had “got in the way” of preparing the case against Ford.

But many Visteon workers, after over a year of campaigning, want to see the union speed up.

“We want the union to immediately put a writ to Ford and make them pay up,” said Rob Williams, convenor of the Linamar (formerly Visteon) plant in Swansea.

“A victory for BA workers is a victory for all workers,” he added, to applause from the crowd.

Some pointed out the importance of acting quickly. “A lot of people are losing up to 50 percent of their pension and if it goes into the pension protection fund they will lose a lot more,” said Robert, who worked at the Basildon plant for 32 years.

Many were in no mood to be conciliatory to Ford. As Gerry Campbell from Belfast put it, “I’d like nothing better than to see the directors of Ford and Visteon in jail.”

Others were angry at the lack of government response to their plight. “Why is the government not helping us?” asked Gary Palmer, a former worker in Enfield.

“It should step in. I’ve worked for 48 years and we’ve all worked hard. We deserve decent pensions.”

Agency and migrant workers

Anger at attacks on jobs and trade union rights by multinational companies was a recurring feature of the conference.

Delegates passed a motion deploring “the profound attack on trade union rights resulting from the four European Court of Justice rulings – Laval, Viking, Ruffert and Luxembourg”.

The motion said that these rulings meant that bosses’ “right to so called ‘freedom of establishment’ anywhere within the EU take precedence over fundamental trade union rights”.

Other motions were concerned with the way in which profit-hungry bosses moved jobs around the world in an attempt to lower costs.

John Peckham, a Cadbury worker, moved a composite of motions calling on the union to protect “British workers” and stop “multinational companies from being able to close companies in Britain and throw British workers on the scrapheap by taking advantage of cheap labour abroad.”

We defend the right of workers to fight for their jobs and stop the erosion of their pay and conditions, but also stand for solidarity and unity with migrant workers.

Socialists and trade unionists must make sure that the bosses are the clear target of our campaigning.

In the discussion of agency workers, many delegates made this position clear.

Gordon Lean moved a composite committing the union to fighting to “ensure that agency workers used in trade union workplaces have the same terms and conditions and rates of pay as full time workers in the workplace”.

He said, “The agency workers are not our enemy – it’s the unscrupulous employers we’ve got to address.”

Brian Davies seconded the motion. “It’s frightening the lengths that companies will go to to use agency workers to exploit everyone,” he told conference. “We need to get agency workers on the same wages as everyone else – not lower everyone to the lowest level.”

Delegates passed the motion.

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