UNITE END ENFIELD OCCUPATION – but Belfast stands firm

Visteon workers in a show of defiance on the roof before Unite officials got them to leave the factory at noon yesterday
Visteon workers in a show of defiance on the roof before Unite officials got them to leave the factory at noon yesterday

The Unite trade union yesterday carried out its obligation to the capitalist court and at noon ended the occupation of the Visteon factory in Enfield.

Occupying workers at the sister factory in Belfast however said they are determined to stay until they get the plant reopened.

Unite regional secretary for London and East Anglia Steve Hart turned up at the occupied Enfield plant yesterday morning.

At 10.15am, he called together all the occupying workers, both those inside and those standing outside the plant, and entered the plant to hold a mass meeting.

At noon, the occupiers came out of the factory, where they held an impromptu meeting together with workers and students from Sussex University who had come to support the occupation.

Unite convenor Kevin Nolan announced an indefinite 24-hour picket of the plant.

He told News Line: ‘The fight goes on, we are not leaving,’ before being hoistd on workers’ shoulders and marched round the factory.

Piers Hood, Unite deputy convenor, said, ‘We walked out today. Me and Kevin went to the High Court on Monday and we were facing committal and costs.

‘The union got a good QC, Andrew Stafford, and we managed to get off. Part of the negotiations was: Kevin went to New York and we were given till now to stay in.

‘We are going to picket the plant. Negotiators are coming from America to speak to the leaders of the three plants.

‘We believe they are planning to set up a new company doing the same work with a cheap labour workforce.

‘Sinn Fein lawyers are looking into the possibility of bringing some directors up on charges of corruption.’

Kevin Maginnis, senior plant engineer of 18 years’ service, said: ‘Everyone has been doing sterling work. All the lads staying overnight has made a real impact.

‘The company has been planning this since 2006. We had a ballot on whether to give up our “Ford-mirrored” terms and conditions for life.

‘Steve Gawne, who is the CEO, said he would put the company into administration if we didn’t vote to end our terms and conditions but we didn’t!

‘They have been transferring the work out of the plants and buffering (building up stocks).

‘In January this year we voted for a voluntary lay-off period of fifteen hours a month – that’s about a ten per cent cut in hours and pay – to help the company out.

‘When I started there used to be 1,200 people working here. That’s dwindled to 230. Visteon has organised “dual sourcing” on all their components, so some factories could be closed.

‘It was set up to fail, it never made a profit from day one.’

Bob Kiff, a retired Visteon worker, said: ‘I was a convenor here for seven years. My wife worked here for 34 years.

‘The struggle has gone reasonably well but I’m not impressed with union leaders Simpson and Woodley.

‘Today’s the last day of the occupation. They sent two junior officials who wouldn’t answer any questions.

‘This government has a lot to answer for and so have the local politicians. They’re good at fleecing us with taxes and claiming expenses but don’t look after their constituents.’

Speaking from Belfast, Unite convenor John McGuire told News Line: ‘The occupation is very strong, very determined.

‘The message to Ford is the occupation will not end until they do the right thing – re-open the plant.

‘It’s not money we’re after, we want our jobs back.

‘The plant had a full order book. But work is being done in South Africa.

‘We don’t think it is of the same standard as that done in Belfast.