Visteon Workers Fight Management Attacks
9th September 2007This year on March 30th, Visteon UK management walked into Swansea Plant and ripped up the sourcing agreement and stopped brake disc production. All of the disc lines had at least two years left, two lines had at least 4 years left! The Company tried to justify it because Ford's Leamington foundry was closing but one of the new lines didn't even get their rough stock from Leamington! Swansea employees immediately voted for a industrial action ballot but regrettably it took 14 weeks from that mandate to the first opportunity to take action. Unfortunately, by then the disc work had gone and over 80 permanent jobs. Should the plant's temporary workers have been laid off, over 150 hourly-paid jobs would have been lost.
The stewards committee wanted to send a strong message to Visteon management that they couldn't just take work out of Swansea without a fight. Because the Company wanted to make 'excess' skilled workers into production operators, Swansea shop stewards wanted to act on the 'yes' votes for industrial action. They also believe that the percentage of temporary workers should be reduced from 15% to 10%, giving some of the temps the opportunity to get a permanent job. They also believed that Swansea employees should be compensated financially for the Company breaking the disc sourcing agreement. How many local manufacturing plants could have kept work if these brutal employers had to pay a penalty price every time they take out work and jobs without agreement?
After being accused of organising unofficial action over the last two years, the Company responded to this legal, official action by the most brutal methods. The 'work to rule' was meant to bring the Company back to the negotiating table but while privately indicating that they were prepared to talk, they actually started to put workers 'off pay', the union believes illegally. Twice in the last week, the Company have put assembly workers off pay (literally stop paying and then disciplining them) because they weren't able to produce the normal amount. This on a line with half the number of its normal plattens (that deliver the work around the line)! The Company's own disciplinary procedures say that groups of individuals can't be taken off pay together but this was just ignored by HR.
Swansea workers are just told, "We have to prepare you for sale to Linamar" (from Canada). They are starting to worry about what it will be like to work in Swansea whoever owns the plant under these bullying tactics. Swansea workers have no confidence in Visteon but only want a future which protects jobs, terms & conditions and pensions. Any future talks with Linamar have to give all the detail on these issues.
Despite all the bullying, harassment and intimidation over the last 7 years not just the last couple of weeks, Swansea Visteon workers have fought all the way to defend their jobs and conditions. They have also been to the forefront in supporting other workers in struggle form the fire-fighters to the postal workers. Many workers will recognise this story from their own experience. Certainly the tens of thousands of car workers know all about how the industry has been devastated by the 'race to the bottom'. The Visteon workers have shown that its possible to buck the trend by forcing major concessions from management.