Belfast backs Visteon workers’ occupation

Original source:

Hundreds of people rallied in Belfast on Wednesday in support of the ongoing sit-in by laid-off Visteon workers.

Unite Northern Ireland spokesman Bob Miller said that some 400 people from trade unions, families of the laid-off workers, politicians and ordinary people rallied inside the occupied Visteon car-parts factory in Finaghy, west Belfast.

The protest was held to demand that former plant owners Ford honour agreements made between them and manufacturing union Unite in 2000 that workers would receive the same redundancy benefits at the hived-off subsidiary as specified in their original contracts.

The protesters marched the mile from the Andersonstown shopping centre to the plant, where Unite Irish regional organiser Jimmy Kelly addressed the meeting along with local politicians from the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

Disgruntled former workers have refused to leave the centre until a row over redundancy packages is resolved and they have staged a sit-in.

Mr Kelly said: ‘We are convinced that Ford cannot walk away by giving six minutes’ notice to the workers here in Belfast.’

Management announced eight days ago that they were closing their bases in Belfast, Enfield and Basildon after incurring massive losses.

One of the march organisers said: ‘There is a great deal of anger at the minute and we want to step up our campaign to try and bring Ford into this.’

Visteon UK was created in 2000 after former owners Ford decided to sell off part of its operation.

The factory workers were promised protection from compulsory redundancy under Ford. Some have been employed for decades and around 210 are affected in Belfast.

Some of those laid off by Visteon turned down better redundancy packages in the past in a bid to keep the ailing outfit going, which was losing millions of pounds across the three plants.

Workers at Basildon and Enfield supported the protest in Belfast, where a spokesman said that they were considering picketing Ford showrooms in Northern Ireland.

They are also seeking support from union members in Ford.

Talks were ongoing yesterday in New York between Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson and Ford over the dispute.

The Belfast occupation by 200 workers is continuing in round-the-clock shifts of about 70.