voices from the visteon/ford occupation

On Tuesday March 31st workers at Visteon factories – making car parts for Ford brands – across the UK were told that Visteon Corp could no longer prop up the UK branch, and so they would all lose their jobs with immediate effect. That night a hundred workers at a plant in west Belfast occupied their workplaces, and the next day were followed by their colleagues in Enfield (north London) and Basildon in Essex. We spoke to a number of the workers involved in the sit-in at Enfield, and have gathered some of the occupiers’ comments below.

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“I’ve been working here for nineteen years. I’ve always been working for Ford and we were Ford workers, but in 2000 this place was farmed out to Visteon. At the time the union signed a deal with the chairman of Ford Motor Company to guarantee all Ford workers the same terms and conditions under Visteon. We had a contract with Ford. They’ve broken it. It’s disgusting. Can’t they see that we had a contract and we need them to stick to it? It was signed by the union – I was at first in the AEU, but now it’s Unite – and what we’re demanding is that Ford sticks by their side of the agreement. We don’t want any trouble – there’s been lots of redundancies before, down from around 1100 when I started to around 220 today – and it was always voluntary redundancies. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to say yes sir, thank you sir, and lie down and let them walk all over us. We’re staying until they honour their side of the deal”.

“This has been handled very, very badly. I’ve been here a long time, a lot of us have worked here a long time: one guy’s been here 41 years. Can you imagine, working here as a young boy, working your whole life and then being told ‘you’ve got no job tomorrow, mate’? Very bad. People have families, they’ve got mortgages, kids to pay for… I can’t just sign on – but I got a letter today for my redundancy claim, but you only get five days to fill it in, and I can’t take the risk I’ll lose any money. They’re giving us nothing, a few hundred quid’s worth, it’s nothing… But it’s not just us and our jobs, this is for everyone. It’s a small seed, but you have to start doing something.”

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“Some of us were in the T and G and some in Amicus before it became Unite, but it wasn’t the union running it. The convenor, Kevin Nolan, we’ve not seen him here the last couple of days. I guess you could say it was the Irish factory which gave us the idea. On Tuesday afternoon some of the girls signing on at 2 were told don’t sign in, just go to the training room. Visteon management had a meeting and were told about the company situation and that we were out of a job. Just like that – ‘you’re out’. We were allowed to come back at 10 the next day to come and pick up our things. I was so shocked, and we all were, so we didn’t do anything. So we saw on the news what they’d done up in Northern Ireland and when we went back the next day to get our stuff, we just refused to leave again. It was a spur of the moment thing. Some of the security guards were worried by the number of people and tried to stop people going in, but we said we’re not leaving ’til we get some answers and someone from Ford comes to speak to us. The union is going out to get a meeting, and they’ll tell us what’s going on with Ford and what they’re prepared to offer us and what to do. We need to get the money from Ford even if they close this place down. We had an agreement, so we want Ford to step in.”

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“We have three meetings, one on the roof, one inside and one by the steps, as there’s seventy or eighty of us inside, some come and go. It’s informal though, the convenor sends texts around and we chat about what we’re doing. We’ll see what happens, [on Thursday] the bailiffs came round but their notice was all wrong. They’d got it all messed up. The address on the notice to get us out wasn’t for here, it was for a pile of rubble, so we said fine, take it! And it was on behalf of a judge, not from a judge, so it was all wrong. They’ll have to come back. The police haven’t been a problem. We keep an eye out over these steps, and some people are in charge of getting food in and looking after stuff like phone chargers. We’ll see. We’re staying here until Ford gives us an answer. We’re waiting to be told what to do.”

“Three carloads went up to Dagenham. Charlie Kimber [an SWP member] organised it. It was great, they were very well received and it’s good to get the solidarity. Down in Southampton – that’s Transit vans – the union says they won’t handle Visteon stuff.”

The Enfield occupation continues. Send messages of support to 07808 895 724. The workers also need to be supplied with food, drink, sleeping bags, etc. The plant is near to Ponders End station, three stops from Liverpool Street – email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com if you would like to visit the occupation with us.

4 thoughts on “voices from the visteon/ford occupation

  1. A job? A contract with Ford Motor Company? Listen to me very carefully; Ford Motor Company does not represent America or American Values. Most Americans stick to their word, as a token of honor and respect. We also value our freedom of speech in America, so I commend you on your speaking out for the wrong you have experienced.
    I purchased a Lincoln with 86k Ford’s luxury model dual airbags, strongest frame for side impact. And on 12-09-06 my and his girlfriend burned to death driving this death trap. The cruise control switch was defective, But Ford knew that already since it’s production from Texas Instruments. So loosing a job, does not mean anything to Ford. Loosing my child does not mean anything to Ford. Corporate GREED!
    deliciadawn@yahoo.com

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  2. Delicia, I am sorry to hear about your loss and having lost a close family member in 2007 I really know what that feels like, I’m still struggling with it. Have you sought an explanation from Ford for why their cruise control was defective? And have they given you one?

    To The Commune, thank you for a very interesting report on the occupation which I am following. I have also visited. I’m really glad Visteon workers made the decision to occupy. From what I saw they are all very much on the ball and determined to win. I’ve been looking back through the history books on Ford/Visteon past.

    Clearly Ford were looking for a way to rid themselves of the unprofitable parts of the company and decided to use Visteon as a vehicle for doing that. The objective was to move to China and Mexico and Guatemala, Mexico… wherever they could set up a cheaper plant with lower labour costs.

    However, these plants are profitable to Ford due to the fact that the workers there are exploited to the hilt. Therefore, Ford have the money and means to compensate the workers they make redundant here when as one of the employees mentioned, the workforce at the Enfield plant has been reduced to 227 from about 1000, and profits rose.

    It’s a bit redundant to go on about CEO compensation packages etc but how else did they make such obscene profits. Then there’s that idea in the good times that management have a responsibility to the shareholders! These shareholders saw their shares plummet, even went to court because they thought that Visteion were hiding the truth.

    Another point, Visteon were supplying Ford with parts. As Visteon is a subsidiary, management must have conspired to make sure the UK plants racked up debts just so they could do this. Effectively one arm was selling to the other. It will be interesting to see the accountants books on this. I think we should demand that the books are made public.

    Also, these closures have been in the pipeline since 2006.

    Look at the 2006 Swansea disputes for form. Another thing we need to explore is how Ford and Visteon treat their workers outside of Europe and the US. I’m guessing these workers are exploited to the hilt. Ford seem to think that the Chinese market is going to drag them out of the recession.

    I could go on but I will mention this one point lasly; which ties in with other things I have said earlier. Visteon UK had a contract with Ford to supply parts but because of the Great Financial Crisis this contract was not honoured, hastening on the fall of Visteon. Visteon also supplied to Jaguar and I hear that they also decided to break the contract… rumour is that they have stockpiled a years worth of parts.

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  3. I just read through my comment and saw the lines that might be read – exploited workers there (China etc) should pay for redundant workers here in the UK – sorry didn’t think that through completely and that’s not what I meant.

    When workers are being told that their jobs can be replaced by cheaper workers in Guatemala while the bosses continue to get massive “compensation” packages, I think we know where we can get the money to fund the pensions of workers and their redundancy packages…

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  4. I am a straight forward person, I do not fluff my reports, ALL I can say is Ford Motor Company is Ruthless, they do not care about you or I. Every other commercial is for Ford Motor Company Products. The American Media will not touch my story until court starts, due to the extreme media revenue they receive from Ford.
    To answer your question, The Cruise Control switches designed to have a continuous electrical current, even when the car is parked it can catch fire. The switch was designed in the early 90’s made By Texas Instruments. The test revealed the current from the switch could reach the brake fluid and cause a fire. The test all showed a the part leaked. But Ford put it in millions of cars and trucks anyway. Then when people started to loose their houses to fires in the garages, etc. the US government looked into it, told Ford to do a recall. So, Ford did a recall , but only on a few models, even though they knew the same or similar part was in others. Ford Denys everything. Their were two people in the car that died, the other ones family has dropped their suit and appears to have settled. I am not settling , I am going to court.

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