Devastated Visteon staff stage sit-in as 200 jobs go in factory shutdown

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Sacked workers made redundant at failed Ford car parts manufacturer Visteon are vowing to continue a sit-in at the west Belfast factory.

The US owned plant closed yesterday with the loss of more than 200 jobs after administrators were called in.

Employees are refusing to leave the former Ford factory at Finaghy Road North until bosses of the car giant agree to talks.

They are claiming they are entitled to Ford redundancy under terms and conditions agreed when the plant was sold in 2000.

John McGowan, shift leader at Visteon, said: “I’m just dumbstruck. I feel it’s totally unjust the way we’re being treated by the company. They have had redundancy packages in the past due to the downturn in sales.

“Last year they were offering redundancy packages of £30,000 minimum. Now they’re telling me for my 30 years loyalty to this company I’m getting a redundancy package which is capped at just over £9,000. That’s totally unjust and unfair.”

Visteon UK is also axing another 360 jobs at its factories in Basildon and Enfield.

Davy McMurray, from the trade union Unite, said yesterday: “It is a total shock, workers were only informed that the factory was closing at 1pm. We really need to get face-to-face talks with Ford and we really need our MLAs to use whatever influence they have to get Ford to the negotiating table.

“The redundancy that these workers are entitled to would go someway towards easing the blow.”

Mr McMurray added: “This news is a hammer blow for the economy of west Belfast where the highly skilled workforce is slowly being eroded.”

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood and councillor Tim Attwood have asked for urgent meetings with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Invest NI over the closure of Visteon.

Meanwhile Donald Stebbins, chairman and chief executive of parent company Visteon, said: “Despite extensive restructuring efforts the UK plants have continued to incur substantial losses.

“Regrettably, having exhausted all options, the Visteon UK board of directors had no alternative but to file for administration.”

A slump in car sales has thrown the industry into crisis which has had an inevitable knock-on effect on the entire supply chain, including car parts suppliers. In December Carrickfergus car components company Ryobi announced 99 redundancies.

Administrator KPMG said Visteon UK, which was being subsidised by the US parent group, owed more than £400m.

John Hansen, joint administrator, said: “The entire automotive supply chain has been under pressure for a number of years. In the current economic downturn, car sales have dropped dramatically, which has caused further severe pressure on parts suppliers.”

Visteon UK has struggled since it separated from car giant Ford in 2000. There were redundancies at the Belfast factory in 2003, then in 2006 financial woes left the plant under threat and in December 2007 parts of the 22-acres site were sold off to developers.

This article is from The Belfast Telegraph