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Basildon Visteon Update
Workers picket Visteon at Basildon, photo Greg Maughan
The home made signs outside Basildon Visteon plant summed up the angry mood of the sacked workers - "we want justice", "sold out by Ford", "How do you sleep at night?"
Eleanor Donne, Jacques Botjer and Greg Maughan
Members of Basildon Socialist Party spoke to Wayne Stevens, Unite deputy convenor at the picket outside the plant: "We had been on short time doing three days a week, but there was no suggestion that the plant was going to close. There was even talk that we may get four days that week. However, at the end of our shift on the Tuesday we were called to a meeting in the canteen. The managers told us that one hour ago the company had gone into administration".
The workers were told to get all their things and leave the premises. One placard at the protest outside summed it up - "33 years of service, six minutes to get out".
Workers were furious that administrators had been dealing with Visteon for at least 60 days, but no warning was given. In the time that the managers knew the company was 'going under' workers produced thousands of pounds worth of parts, which are now stockpiled in the plant.
While staff were grafting, management were breaking a sweat making sure their backs were covered. Visteon managing director Steve Gawne put his name to a spin-off company last year, Visteon Engineering Services.
It seems a number of Visteon UK executives have had their pension funds transferred to this company so that they're protected. This is while allowing Visteon to go into liquidation so as to avoid the payouts the workforce are entitled to! No wonder banners hang outside the plant reading 'Frauds Motor Company' - as far as the workers are concerned, the transfer to Visteon was a stitch-up all along!
Wayne and others we spoke to outside the gates have hundreds of year's experience at Ford and Visteon between them. They still consider themselves to be Ford workers as they were promised the same terms and conditions when Ford set up Visteon in 2000. Many on the picket line spoke of how their fathers and grandfathers worked at Basildon Ford before them.
Management had callous disregard not just for the workers in Visteon but for the whole community that they're throwing out on the scrap heap.
The workers at Basildon are determined to prevent any equipment or goods from being removed from the plant by administrators. They have organised a 24-hour rota on all gates to make sure no lorries can get in or out until they have received what is rightfully theirs.
Alongside the constant pickets, other activity is being organised to make sure their situation is known as widely as possible in the area - Sunday saw a protest march and rally which was addressed by stewards Frank Jepson and Scott Edmonds, as well as Paula Mitchell from the Socialist Party, amongst others. Wednesday 8 April is family day on the pickets, with workers getting their partners and kids along, while visits with leaflets to other local manufacturing plants are now being co-ordinated.
Everyone on the pickets are solid and willing to stick things out until the situation is resolved.
Building Support in the Community
Basildon Socialist Party members held our regular stall on Saturday in the town centre. Our call to 'Fight for Jobs' was given extra meaning because of the sudden closure of the Visteon car parts plant on the Tuesday - a loss of 170 jobs in Basildon if Visteon and their parent company Ford are allowed to get away with it.
Lots of people came up to express support for the workers who are holding a round the clock protest outside their factory. One woman said her son works for a company that serviced Visteon's computers, and that could now be under threat, like many other support industries for Visteon in the town. We asked people to get messages of support from their trade union branches or have a workplace collection and take this up to the picket outside the plant.