I was at an inspiring meeting in North London last night – a solidarity meeting with the Visteon workers who are in occupation now.
On Tuesday last week, over 500 Visteon workers were sacked with a few minutes notice. They were told to clear their lockers and get out. Some of them had been employed there for more than 40 years. There was no warning, and no consultation. They were told there’s no money for redundancy pay, and they’ll get the statutory minimum. They didn’t even get their pay for the final week at work.
What did they do? At two of the three plants involved (Enfield and Belfast) they’ve gone into occupation.
Visteon was hived off by Ford back in 2000, but workers were told they were guaranteed Ford contracts for life. That would mean no compulsory redundancies. Instead, Ford is saying ‘Nothing to do with us’, while Visteon has simply dumped them. The workers are fighting for a settlement that treats them like human beings – either for the plants to stay open, or for a fair redundancy package.
There’s a jobs massacre going on – in construction, in finance, in manufacturing generally – and right at the sharp end of things, in car plants and in motor components plants like Visteon. Far too much of this is happening without a fightback.
That’s why it’s so brilliant to see the Visteon workers standing up for their right to be treated with respect, and sending out a message loud and clear, ‘Workers fight back’.
It was a privilege to hear the Visteon workers yesterday talking about their fight. They spoke of their absolute determination to keep going, of the practical problems of sleeping in shifts in a building with no heating and limited washing facilities, and of the confidence that widespread solidarity has given them.
The stakes are very high here. The convenor and deputy convenor were threatened with two year jail sentences at the High Court yesterday. There’s now a brief stalemate while talks take place. What a disgrace that we have a Government that allows workers to be sacked with a few minutes notice, but has no problem with those same workers being jailed for defending their jobs.