Car parts workers' action over job losses spreads

Car parts workers' action over job losses spreads

Protests against job cuts at car parts firm Visteon spread today when workers attempted to occupy more factories.

Scores of workers were staging protests at factories in Basildon, Essex, and Enfield, north London, sources said.

The action follows an overnight sit-in at another Visteon factory in Belfast.

Staff are demanding action to save more than 560 jobs at the three plants.

Around 200 staff face the axe at a plant in west Belfast and 100 of the workers stayed at the site throughout last night.

They claimed the company’s former owner and main customer, Ford, had promised contracts which they now want to see honoured.

Union representatives asked workers to hold off on a threat to picket Ford showrooms until more information was available.

Visteon UK employed 173 staff at the Basildon plant, 227 in Enfield and 210 in Belfast.

The wider group has a 33,500-strong workforce and operations in 27 countries.

Dozens of angry workers sat in at the west Belfast factory overnight. They are refusing to move and want terms and conditions, which they say former owner Ford guaranteed them, honoured.

Sinn Féin MP Gerry Adams visited them this morning.

He wants to ensure local Economy Minister Arlene Foster and business body Invest NI is aware of the gravity of the situation and called for the former staff to stay united in their protest.

Mr Adams said the head of New York City’s finances, Bill Thompson, who has pension funds invested in Ford, should put pressure on the company and said he was in touch with the head of Ford Europe.

“Ford controlled the purse strings and everything that was happening here. They then have a duty of responsibility towards yourselves,” he said.

“There is almost a degree of chicanery involved here, of snatch-and-grab, where they come in, where they give people minimal redundancies as opposed to your full entitlement and terms and conditions.”

Signs saying “Ford Sell Out” were hung around the car park, which has become a rallying point. Sandwiches and huge bottles of water were in the canteen while outside fires were lit in metal containers to keep workers warm.

Mr Adams said: “What these big businesses are dependent on is that you won’t stick with it. What they are dependent on is that through sheer domestic pressure and being tired and sitting up in late nights you will go.”

He appealed for them to stay united.

Workers’ spokesman John Maguire alleged Ford had shipped out work to the shanty towns of South Africa.

“Ford have been using our workforce here to test products to put into South Africa,” he claimed.

“The whole thing has been stage-managed and I don’t want people to think this is anything to do with the credit crunch. It isn’t.”

Unite union Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly is visiting the Belfast plant today.

He said to “lose out on a generation” while trying to remain competitive in manufacturing would be disastrous.

“Quite a lot of these employees have spent their working lives at this company. To be rewarded with their jobs being extinguished at a stroke of an administrator’s pen is not the way to be treated,” he said.

“The loss of these jobs for the west Belfast area is a hammer blow to the community which has been hard-pressed to see well-paid and skilled employment locate there.

“The Finaghy workers deserve fairer treatment from Visteon and Ford and a better redundancy package to see then through the tough times ahead.

“Unite vows to battle on to see that this is done.”

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