Sunday, April 05, 2009
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR-GREAT BRITAIN:
FACTORY OCCUPATIONS AT VISTEON:
Last Tuesday British auto parts manufacturer Visteon filled for bankruptcy protection. This company is a supplier to the Ford Motor Company, but is has been separated from the parent corporation since 2002. the following article from the Financial Times gives the story of the bankruptcy, including the cynical move on the part of Ford to both avoid helping out its supplier and to put its supply chain before the workers involved.
UK car parts maker files for bankruptcy:
By John Reed and Michael Kavanagh in London
The largest UK unit of Visteon, the financially troubled US auto parts producer, on Tuesday filed for bankruptcy in a move that will cost about 600 jobs.
Visteon UK said that it had lost £669m since 2000, and was dependent on its US parent, to which it owes £400m to fund its losses. It appointed Jim Tucker and John Hansen of KPMG as joint administrators.
Visteon separated from Ford Motor in 2000 and remains one of the US car maker’s biggest suppliers. The company has three UK plants in Basildon, Enfield and Belfast, and employs 610 people.
About 565 people will be made redundant immediately, while the remaining employees would help administrators wind down the business. The unit’s collapse followed several unsuccessful restructuring attempts, according to KPMG.
“The entire automotive supply chain has been under pressure for a number of years,” Jim Tucker, joint administrator, said in a statement. “In the current economic downturn, car sales have dropped dramatically, which has caused further severe pressure on parts suppliers.”
The company made a $16m interest payment in the US earlier this month that analysts had expected it to miss, which would have triggered a Chapter 11 filing.
But Moody’s cut its credit rating earlier this month after an admission from Visteon that its auditors might query its status as a “going concern.”
Visteon UK makes air conditioning, interior and power train components with Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover - which Ford owned until selling it to Tata Motors last year - accounting for around 80 per cent of its business.
Donald J Stebbins, chairman and chief executive officer of Visteon in the US, said on Tuesday: ”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.”
He added the decision to withdraw financial support from the UK subsidiary reflected Visteon’s commitment ”to taking decisive actions in view of the current challenging operating environment to protect the long-term viability of the business”.
Unlike General Motors, which has pumped about $11bn into its main supplier Delphi since it filed for bankruptcy in 2005, Ford has refused to bail out Visteon itself.
A UK spokesman for Ford said that the failure of Visteon’s UK arm had not yet disrupted production.
“We’ve been in close contact with Visteon, as we would be with any supplier in distress – especially so over the past few months,” he said.
“Our aim now of course is protecting vehicle production, and at this point we’re not expecting any disruption to vehicle assembly.”
The spokesman said that Ford was working with Visteon to implement a plan to secure its customers’ other parts supplies, including from other Visteon plants outside the UK.
Auto parts suppliers are suffering from a severe downturn after extended shutdowns of car plants by many manufacturers. Earlier this month, the US Treasury announced a $5bn bailout package for the sector.
In the UK, Visteon is latest car parts maker to fail. In December London-listed Wagon Automotive, controlled by US billionaire Wilbur Ross, placed its UK arm into administration with the loss of several hundred jobs. Wagon’s failure also prompted the failure of one its its key suppliers, Sonas Automotive.
A separate UK company, Visteon Engineering Services, which employs about 400 people, is unaffected by the Visteon UK’s failure, and continues to trade as normal.
A spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover said: ”The uncertainty of Visteon’s position has been known for a long time, and as a prudent business measure we have put in place contingency plans for the supply of components which have been sourced from Visteon UK. Now they [the plans] will have to be implemented.”
Visteon shares opened $0.03 or 20 per cent lower in New York at $0.12.
In response workers at three plants in the UK proceeded to occupy their factories. This in significant because it is a coordinated response to factory closing, unlike most previous occupations which have been localized to one plant only. It does, however, show that the tactic of factory occupations is becoming more and more popular as the financial crisis deepens. Hopefully it will spread even further and become more radical. Here's a report from the British LibCom site on the occupations.
Car factory occupations spread across the UK:
Sacked workers from the car parts firm Visteon have been occupying three factories across the UK since Wednesday.
The action began with an overnight sit-in at the Visteon plant in Belfast and employees are continuing their protest at the factory. More than 100 workers have staged a sit-in, the Unite trade union has said. Earlier, it was announced that 565 staff would go at Visteon car components plants across the UK. Most of the jobs have been lost with immediate effect and two hundred jobs will go at the Belfast factory.
KPMG said it had no alternative but to close the factory and the two others in Basildon and Enfield in England. Administrators have been called in to the factory which is the former Ford plant. Visteon has a total workforce of 600 in the United Kingdom.
Unite convener John Maguire said the workers at the plant had "been treated disgracefully".
"We have been left with no choice but to occupy the factory to save our jobs and to defend jobs for the people of Belfast," he said.
Fifty people who were sacked on Tuesday are now on the roof of the Enfield plant. Others are holding a sit-in at the plant in Basildon in Essex.
The protesters claimed the company's former owner and main customer, Ford, had promised redundancy contracts which they now want to see honoured.
Here's yet another first hand report from the Irish Workers' Solidarity Movement, via the Anarkismo website. It's about the occupation in Belfast.
Audio: Inside the occupation of Visteon Belfast:
by Sean Matthews - WSM (personal capacity)
A short audio interview with Unite shop steward and convener John McGuire from inside the occupied Visteon plant in Belfast.
“Don’t wait for politicians and people high up in the unions- just do it yourself”, says Unite shop steward John McGuire.
Protests spread, as workers continue to occupy Visteon/Ford plant in West Belfast.
Workers decided to take action on Tuesday after the car parts company announced without notice that administrators are being brought in with the loss of 210 jobs with minimum redundancy payments. A further 400 people will also lose there jobs across the UK. Even those who have been working at the plant for 30 years will be receiving £9,000 in redundancy payment with most getting less. Davy McMurray, from the Unite trade union in Northern Ireland said the way the job cuts were announced was "brutal." "The administrators came in, took a meeting of the workforce and told them their employment was terminated.
"Visteon took over from the former Ford plant in 2000. Ever since that, management at the plant have been undermining workers rights and conditions including gradually reducing redundancy payments. The company’s two other plants Basildon and Enfield in England have now been occupied.
Despite the devastating news and bosses refusing to meet face to face, solidarity and unity amongst workers remain determined to reach a settlement. Motorists on the MI motorway were keen to express there support through beeping their horn. Essential materials and goods such as food are supplying the blockade.
This is the latest example of us having to pay for the crisis in capitalism and the mess by politicians and the very rich. Like the Calcast workers in Derry and the Waterford Crystal workers, these brave and determined car workers are leading by example in resisting attacks on our rights and conditions. Support and solidarity by the wider workers movement is essential.
Solidarity is Strength
For Workers Control’.
This short audio interview below took place inside the plant with Unite shop steward and convenor John McGuire. It was first published on indymedia.ie and can be downloaded from there at http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/apr2009/workers_occupation.mp3
Finally, here's another story on the events, this time from the Australian IWW. Please note that this article contains a link whereby you can express your solidarity with the Visteon workers.
Visteon update occupations Ireland & England:
Submitted by Viola Wilkins
During the global financial crisis Bosses lie that sacrifice now will result in job security and better wages later. This has has been disproved once more at Visteon: "Workers had been put on 1, 2, or 3 day shifts since November - led to believe such a sacrifice would help pull the company thru hard times - a now familiar story we shall hear more frequently as more workplaces move towards closure." http://libcom.org/forums/news/workers-occupy-visteon-factory-31032009
“Don’t wait for politicians and people high up in the unions- just do it yourself”, Unite shop steward John McGuire.
This is the latest example of us having to pay for the crisis in capitalism and the mess by politicians and the very rich. Like the Calcast workers in Derry and the Waterford Crystal workers, these brave and determined car workers are leading by example in resisting attacks on our rights and conditions. Support and solidarity by the wider workers movement is essential. Solidarity is Strength For Workers Control’. The audio interview below took place inside the plant with Unite shop steward and convener John McGuire.
More: Support Visteon Factory Occupation in London, Enfield Short Report, 2nd of April 2009
After car parts manufacturer Visteon announced job cuts workers occupied plants in Belfast, Basildon and Enfield. In Enfield about 70 workers - men and women from all kinds of backgrounds - are still inside the plant and on the roof. Last Tuesday the management called for a general assembly and told people that they would have to leave their workplace immediately. They were told to fetch their personal belongings the next day at 10 am.
When people turned up the factory was already closed. Workers entered through an unlocked side entrance and occupied the plant. The security guards won't let people go inside, they also blocked the fire exists with padlocks - which is clearly illegal.
Last night, Thursday 1st of April, two bailiffs entered the plant. They issued an eviction order, supported by five cops. The eviction order was flawed, e.g. it was not signed and it had the wrong address on it. Workers expect a proper eviction order for tomorrow, Friday, 3rd of April.
In case of eviction workers plan to picket the plant. they also plan to go to Ford Dagenham for a solidarity picket. The plant manufactured parts for various car companies, for example Land Rover, Jaguar, Madzda, Renault, Ford. In 1991 there were still 1,100 people employed, this number came down to 250.
Workers guess that Ford Southampton, the main 'client', piled up stock lasting several weeks - Ford Southampton announced redundancies and will eventually shift production of the Transit to Turkey. Links of solidarity between Enfield and Southampton is the most pressing. People have the most basic stuff inside, sleeping backs, some food etc., contributions are welcome, ex-Visteon workers and neighbours from Enfield drop by with food.
Unfortunately the G20 hype has pushed the occupation into the public back-ground. The occupations are the first 'offensive' collective reactions to the crisis, we should support them - particularly given the pending threat of eviction. So spread the word and come up to Enfield: Meeting point: Friday, 3rd of April and Saturday, 4th of April at 10 am at Ponders End Railway Station (the plant is 5 in walk, cross the foot-bridge, walk down main road towards Central London, the next street to the left is Morson Road, the factory situated at the end).
Bring along: friends, banners, food, music... Flyer for Visteon Factory Occupation http://london.indymedia.org.uk/events/998
Here is the statement of support that has been suggested for the Visteon factory occupations.
We support the occupations by Visteon workers in Belfast and Enfield against the summary closure of their factories without notice, without proper redundancy pay, and without pension security.
We support their demand that Ford - the huge global corporation which is Visteon's main customer, and from which Visteon was spun off - intervene to stop the closures.
We urge the whole trade union movement to give maximum support to these occupations in whatever ways are requested by the workers.
We believe that these occupations, like those at Republic Windows in Chicago, USA, and Prisme Packaging in Dundee, show the best way for the working class to resist mass job cuts and closures and to demand that industries be taken into public ownership under workers' control, with reconversion to alternative products where appropriate.
Please send to: email@example.com (for Enfield)
firstname.lastname@example.org (for Belfast)
Messages of support / offers of help to John Maguire Belfast Unite Convenor - 07816590380"
Here is an example of where Molly has to modify her usual schpiel. The workers at the three plants involved in this occupation are pretty much "trapped". They have one and only one customer, and that customer has ultimate control (until it itself, of course, goes bankrupt) over the marketing of the product of the plants. This is quite different from other factory occupations where there was at least the possibility of the workers involved marketing the factory products on their own to a diverse set of consumers. This means that the occupations in question are inevitably purely political, and that they are limited to putting pressure on the buying company and various governments. How possible is this ? Who knows ? What is certain is that the workers involved cannot simply start up production on their own. This is a serious limitation on the eventual success of the occupations, particularily as the Ford Corporation has already indicated that they will shift parts supply to other countries.