Visteon occupations: Workers search for the extension of the struggle

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The occupation of the Visteon car part plants in Belfast, Enfield and Basildon at the beginning of April is a small but important sign that workers are not prepared to lie down and accept the mauling that capitalism in crisis is inflicting on their jobs and living conditions.

The striking thing about these occupations is, first, that workers responded very rapidly to the announcement of redundancies on the worst possible terms (minimal redundancy payments and no guarantees of last week's wages being paid...), occupying the plant in Belfast and almost immediately afterwards in Enfield and Basildon. Although the Basildon occupation seems to have ended, the workers have stayed outside the plant to voice their anger.

Secondly, there is a very strong feeling of solidarity behind these actions and a real desire to extend the struggle. The occupation in Belfast encouraged the Enfield workers to follow their example. An Enfield worker put it simply: "the workers in Ireland occupied - so we thought, now it's our turn to do something." (Socialist Worker online, 4/4/9). Because the plants used to be owned by Ford and many workers are still working under Ford contracts, the occupying workers straight away talked about sending delegations to Ford plants in Dagenham and Southampton. Workers from other sectors also came to the three plants to show their support, and there was a demonstration outside the Enfield plant where all were welcome.

The main aim of the occupations was not to set up a new company ‘under workers' management' but to put pressure on the bosses to either improve the redundancy deal or withdraw it and find some way of keeping the plant going. The discussions about extending the struggle to Ford were motivated by the same concern.

Occupations can become a trap for workers if they end up shut up inside rather than trying to spread the struggle outwards. The Visteon occupations, even though they are still under union control and face considerable obstacles and difficulties, indicate that we are entering a period where the search for class-wide solidarity more and more becomes a central element in every struggle.  

Amos 4/4/9


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