500 sacked Visteon workers demonstrated outside the Unite London headquarters on Wednesday to demand the union immediately takes out a writ against Ford motor company.
‘Ford is stealing our Pensions!’ and ‘Ford = Fraud!’ read placards carried by the ex-car parts workers as they then marched to Downing Street from the Unite headquarters.
It was the first anniversary of the three UK Visteon plants being put into administration with 600 people losing their jobs and 3,000 more having their pensions cut.
Outside the union building Robert Williams, ex Visteon convenor from Swansea thanked Unite for its support, but insisted the union had to take out a writ against Ford motor company and without delay.
‘We are not here for the hell of it. The union has to take these companies to court. We want a writ served on Ford motor company today.’
Williams added: ‘It is one year ago that 600 people were sacked, and 3,000 pensions were put into doubt. Those who fought back and occupied were an inspiration for this campaign, and we have the same spirit.
‘We want the union to start legal action against Ford straight away, today. They have got to do it’, he said.
Unite is demanding that Ford meet its pension obligations of £350 million to employees.
But Unite National Officer for Motor Components Roger Maddison has admitted that Unite had talked with Ford’s Chief Finance Officer, Lewis Booth, in New York but had made no progress.
Maddison apologised for the fact that neither of the joint secretaries of Unite, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, were available to address the protest.
In his press statement Maddison said: ‘Ford reneged on this promise and now 3,000 ex-employees are forced onto the government’s Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) which has reduced their pension by up to 50 per cent.
David Jones said ‘We have to put pressure on our union leaders to support us.
‘It is a myth that PPF actually gives you a full pension. PPF is a government sponsored agency where money is put into a fund, so if a company is liquidated the government pays the pension. But only 90 per cent of what you are entitled to, and for the early retired it is 45 per cent, so eventually you lose 35 per cent of your pension.
‘Given the strong relationship Visteon have with the American car giant Ford, we strongly believe that it was a deliberate liquidation. They set up separate companies deliberately and have only liquidated one part of the company.
‘At the time, Ford signed documentation with the union that pensions would be guaranteed, but they have not lived up to their promise. We want Ford to recognise those guarantees and the union to take them to court to make sure they do.
‘But the laws do not defend the working man’, he added. ‘You only get what you fight for.’
Bevan Jenkins South Wales Assembly member said: ‘The way Ford have treated you is unacceptable.
Politicians should be supporting you. The unions have to step up and take legal action against Ford.
‘From the documents that I have seen, you did believe you were signing up for the same conditions of service. The company is lying to you’, she concluded.
Lindsey Williams said ‘Woodley and Simpson are just like Brown and Blair.
‘I am not impressed with the way Woodley and the union leaders have behaved. We met them a few months ago to get them to do something about our pension and at first they defended management and said: “Ford can’t afford it”, but we have pushed them into fighting it and we are about to push the button to take Ford and Visteon to court.’
Steve Shern said ‘We believe Ford is at fault. I am potentially going to lose half my pension if it goes into PPF. I have worked for Ford for 35 years and now I am 65 years of age. It has come to something that I have to walk the roads of London to get my pension back.
‘Initially, we had to force the union to take action but they have come on board. I don’t trust Woodley, but we need the union behind us.
‘Nobody would have transferred to Visteon without the cast iron guarantees on pensions that Ford made.
‘Taking someone to court is very expensive, so we are here to make sure the union does, because we have a good case. On April 14th we are discussing it with our barristers.’
Billy McAdoray said ‘We occupied the factory in Belfast this time last year for seven weeks and we showed the rest how to win. We are here today to show the way.
‘You have to fight them. We have a history of struggle in the north of Ireland, so we knew what we had to do.
‘The occupation had to operate like a military machine. We locked the gates and organised the place. People on the outside supplied food.
‘The union never came near us at first. We had to criticise the union to force them to come and support us. We told them we would not give up the occupation until we got success.
‘We were guarding the gates 24 hours a day. We kept the place in pristine condition, clean as a whistle, so the company couldn’t accuse us of vandalism.
‘A lady in her 80s came to the gate and gave us a can of beans and a £5.00 note. The guys said: “No, we should be giving to you” but she said “My late husband was sacked and he would want me to do this.” It stings my eyes even today.
‘We took a car load to the bosses’ mansions to get them to talk to us after they closed the plant and the security guards came out. ‘They said “How many of you are there?” and we said “Enough!”
‘We even set up a fighting fund and we’re going to send people to Detroit in the US to picket Ford’s American headquarters. There are 90 million Irish Americans who would not buy Ford Motor products.
‘It is going to have to come to a national strike in this country, for jobs, decent wages and a future with a health service because what will all our lives be like. I have grandchildren and they want a future.
Kevin Sanitii from the closed Enfield plant said ‘I am here because I want my full pension restored from Ford and Visteon, which has been decreased by PPF already by over 10 per cent.’
Kevin Owens, ex shop steward from Enfield, said ‘Pensions are deferred wages, it is our money the company are taking.
‘We are making some progress. There was a meeting in the US with Ford to ask them to deliver on their promise for “mirror pensions”.
‘Regrettably, Ford said they couldn’t afford it, but they recently declared last quarter profits for 2009-10 which shows Ford are in a healthy position.
‘They just sold Volvo for £1.2billion, and they just received US government support, and also support from Mandelson, to produce an electric car in Dagenham. So they must have the money.
‘Brown is not Labour, they are Tories. It is just a matter of time before the working class decides it wants a workers’ government.
Eden Smith from Mexico who worked at Visteon in Enfield, said ‘All the automotive industries all over the world are in the same position.
‘I remember I was taught in school that this was the country of the industrial revolution. Now look where we are. They are transferring all the jobs to my country.
‘There is no direct support for the workers from any government. The only thing there is, is because of previous legislation.’