Visteon: A life-changing struggle

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The occupation at former Ford plant Visteon wasn't planned. We came down here to get our personal belongings after we heard that we had all been sacked with immediate effect.

But one of the doors was open so everybody just ran in and decided to stay.

We barricaded all the doors so security couldn't get to us. Straight away we were getting donations of food brought to us. Kurds, Italians, Jamaicans, Turkish people - every nationality that lives in the country was cooking for us. It was quite emotional. All these people who didn't know us came along to give us their support, to feed us, to bring supplies of sleeping bags, toiletries. I've never seen that in my life - so many people came to strangers and put their hand out.

We thought we had Ford terms and conditions for life. Ford motor company are now saying Visteon is not a subsidiary. It's a disgrace. They should give us our dues. We've all put a lot of years in the company - 20, 30, one lady 40 years - and now our pensions are frozen and wrecked.

I've never even been informed by the company that my job's finished. The only information I got was a phone call from a colleague. You put 21 years in and they don't have the decency to write and tell you that you no longer have a job.

After we came out of occupation we set up 24-hour pickets. The first week it was wet and cold. We had to reorganise for living outside with tents and gazebos to keep us dry. We are manning the gates so no lorries come in or out. There's a lot of expensive machinery in there and we have to stop it going out. We're going to stay strong, picketing until Ford and Visteon get their heads together and sort this mess out.

I'm quite prepared to sit here for months. I'm 57 years old. I wanted to finish my working life here and they've just made it impossible. Who wants me at the age of 57?

The government needs to stop this country being raped of its manufacturing. Now there's nothing for our young ones to grow up to. Politicians need to stop looking at their own pockets and start looking after the workers - they'll have empty pockets one day if the workers aren't here.

What is the government going to do when there are no more taxpayers? I dread to think. What's going to happen to the NHS when our money's not going in the pot? Soup kitchens and a shilling a week again to pay for your health service?

It's not a Labour government any more - that went years ago. When my father was a young man Labour was for the working class, but not any more. I was Labour - not any more. These young men go into government because they know that they'll make money. They want to feather their own nests. Why do they need two houses? Why doesn't the government buy them a row of houses to live in in London, if they need to travel down? At least they would still belong to the people.

I would say to people who want to support us; use your principles, don't buy where companies are destroying workers. I wanted a kitchen once, and I looked in Magnet. I said to the guy, "I like that white one, but on principle I couldn't buy it." He said, "Why not?" and I said, "Because of what your company did to Magnet workers." Four years those workers sat outside while they bussed cheap labour in and I said I found it out of order. I'd not buy a Timex watch for the same reason.

This has opened my eyes to a lot of things, like these socialist groups. Before I didn't understand what they were about. You just go out to work and come back and you don't think about things till it happens to you. I'd never walk past them again, because they're there for the workers.

Everything has changed since we took action. Before you could work at one end of the factory and never see somebody at the other end. And doing three shifts there are people you didn't know. You knew their faces just to nod your head to. But now you see personalities coming out in people. You see the good things in people. You see people are willing to do something for you. We have become good friends, something I never expected to happen.


Linda Bartle is a member of the Unite union. Send messages of support to steve.hart@unitetheunion.com

The Visteon workers won their fight in early May. Read the report in Socialist Worker here.