WORKERS are occupying the Calcast car parts factory in Campsie, just outside Derry in the north of Ireland.
The plant, a subsidiary of the French manufacturer Montupet, makes cylinder heads for the Ford Explorer.
On Monday management announced that the plant was to close ‘as a result of current market difficulties’ and said 90 of the 102 workers were being made redundant, while 12 were being offered jobs elsewhere.
Unite Regional Officer Philip Oakes told News Line yesterday that the workers have occupied because the company is trying to pay them just 30 days redundancy pay instead of the 90 days to which they are entitled.
He said the decision to retain 12 employees means workers will get one month’s statutory redundancy notice instead of three.
‘As far we’re concerned that is them manipulating the figures in order to save around £200,000,’ he said.
‘The workers are still in the factory and we’re no further forward. Consultation is currently going on between the engineering employers’ solicitors and Thompson Solicitors on behalf of Unite.
‘They are basically asking if there is any legal basis for what the company is doing, by keeping 12 employees and thereby reducing the redundancy payments from 90 days to thirty days.
‘The occupation is to defend the workers’ rights. We have taken as a fait accompli that the plant is to close, but the dispute is over the fact that they are trying to do it on the cheap.
‘You’re talking about a multinational company, Montupet, which has made huge profits on the back of this current workforce, trying to get out of their legal obligation of paying a full 90 days’ redundancy pay.
‘This struggle will continue indefinitely until the company backs down, at present they are not prepared to speak to us until the sit-in ceases, but it’s not going to cease until they back down.
‘Employees were expecting to be returning to work on Monday and those on day shift are here during the day, while those on nights are here during the night, so they are maintaining their normal shift patterns.
‘We have got the moral high ground here, almost all the workers live within a three or four mile radius of the factory and they have the full support of the people of Derry, as well as most of the political parties.
‘We have been visited by Sinn Fein and the SDLP but not the DUP yet, although I would fully expect them to come down at some stage.’
‘Union rep Liam Helferty, said: ‘The company are basically playing a numbers game in order to save themselves two months’ notice money, and it’s a disgrace.’
Shop steward Gerald McClafferty reported support from Belfast, saying: ‘Parts have been shipped out of here and they’re sitting in Belfast and the gentlemen in Belfast are refusing to handle these heads until this is resolved.’