Sacked Visteon workers are currently in the fifth week of a struggle to obtain what is rightfully theirs having been shown the door by the company after many years of service for Fords.
I spoke to Mick Juric on the picket line at the Enfield plant. He’d put in 20 years service and had been told that he was ‘too important’ to the company to be given a voluntary redundancy package earlier this year. The company told him that they looked forward to working with him in the future. A few weeks later he was summarily dismissed with no payout from the company for the years of service. Mick told me that one of his colleagues had put in 44 years service and was due to retire next year. He will now get the statutory minimum payment from the state capped at £ 9000.
Visteon workers realise that the car industry has taken a hit in these turbulent economic times. Chris Walden told me how the workers had ‘bent over backwards’ to help the company. Workers had painted and cleaned the plant. They had put up with cuts to shifts, meaning less pay, but they weren’t prepared to give up their terms and conditions that were brought over when Visteon was spun-off from Fords in 2000 to act as a supplier of components. June Dunning, told me that in recent times management had given no direction and production had effectively been run by the workers themselves.
However, despite the fall in production of cars, there were plenty of other things that needed producing. There is currently a high demand for wheelie-bins and Visteon has the equipment to produce them. This suggestion was put forward by the workers in vain. The system we live under doesn’t produce according to need it produces for profit.
June, who has put in 33 years at the plant, told me how workers suspicions had been aroused in the last few weeks as changes to production had been introduced and the company began to stockpile parts. The workers have now been given to understand that there has been duplication of tools, suggesting production is taking place elsewhere and since the plant closed almost 5 weeks ago, nothing has been removed, even to obtain money for scrap.
June told me that things had started to get worse in recent years. The normally high standards that they had had at Fords were slipping to the extent that toilets had not been cleaned and there were vermin infestations in the plant.
Lisa Brown, told me that trips to the Job Centre are not proving very fruitful, there is very little work available. One of the managers spoke to us as he left the plant, where the administrators are twiddling their thumbs, he has been applying for jobs as far away as Durham but has not had any interviews.
Colin Trupia, who has also done many years for Fords and then Visteon, made me a cup of tea. They have a small gas powered fire to make hot drinks and sit beneath a gazebo on deck-chairs. Donations of wood from supporters keep the brazier alight to provide some warmth throughout the cold nights. One thing that had struck June in the last few weeks was how many people had given their support, visiting picket lines, helping produce posters to publicise the dispute, offering financial assistance.
Ford has made huge profits over the years and Visteon workers have put in double-shifts and worked through their breaks in the ‘good’ times. In the bad times they made sacrifices. Ford is trying to wash their hands of their obligations. Meanwhile Visteon Directors have set up a new company and will have their pensions protected. The workers pension pot will sit and erode in a Pension Protection Fund.
Mick told me how important it was for them to stay at the factory gates. Fords would be hoping that the workers would get tired, pack up and go home. After all, they are looking for work and will have to take jobs to support themselves and their families. But by standing firm the pickets are keeping the pressure on the company but also on their Union leadership to continue to push for what they are owed. They must be given their full redundancy and pension as promised when they signed their Ford contract.
And we must do what we can to help them. My union committee held a collection and raised £ 42 for their Hardship fund. We are asking members to consider giving a couple of quid. We are hoping that the dispute will have been won by our conference in mid May but will be holding another collection there if not.
I think it’s important, especially in the current economic crisis for workers and trade unionists to support each other. While the banks are bailed out with billions in public money, working people are expected to pay for a crisis that is not of our making. Jobs are disappearing in their thousands across the private sector and public sector workers, while we can expect cuts to our jobs, pay, pensions and redundancy packages, are being told that we are lucky in the media onslaught.
We must not let that divide us. We need to link up across public and private sectors as we all stand to suffer the effects of the economic crisis. Visteon workers are already paying for it with their jobs. The only solution is a collective one. We must fight back !
What can you do?
• Send a donation to PO Box 2474, London, N8. Cheques payable to ‘Haringey Solidarity group’.
• Send a message of support to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will give a real boost to the workers.
• Visit the pickets at Enfield or Basildon- they are there 24 hours a day, picketing in 4 hour shifts. Food, drink, firewood and anything else that you think they could use would be appreciated.