Protest goes on, say Visteon workers at plant sit-in

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The Independent Online

Demonstrations are being held at factories in Basildon, Essex, and Enfield, north London, as well as Northern Ireland.

More than 560 jobs are to be axed and angry staff want posts saved or better redundancy packages.

They claimed the company’s former owner and main customer Ford promised contracts which should be honoured.

Unite union Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said: “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.

“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 them through the tough times ahead.”

Up to 80 of those affected were on the roof in Enfield and pledged to remain until Visteon agrees to meet Unite, and a similar number were outside the factory in Basildon. Around 100 held an overnight sit-in in Belfast.

Visteon blamed massive losses for the decision to shut the UK operation.

But Belfast staff said they rejected redundancy packages before which were worth around £30,000 more than the current deal and opted to battle to keep the company afloat.

A spokesman for Ford said they were not stepping into the dispute.

“These employees were to be transferred to Visteon in 2000,” he said.

“The door was open for interested employees to come back and over 550 returned to Ford in the nine years that have passed, but today’s battle is one between them and their employer, not the previous employer.”

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.

Signs saying ‘Ford Sell Out’ were hung around the Belfast plant’s car park which has become a rallying point.

Protesters’ spokesman John Maguire said: “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.”

West Belfast MP Gerry Adams wants to put pressure on Ford through New York City comptroller Bill Thompson, who has pension funds invested with the company.

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

This article is from The Belfast Telegraph