trade unions

Occupy and Defy: the Visteon workers’ struggle & their union

Over the spring, hundreds of workers at three car parts manufacturing plants across the UK were made redundant. In response, workers occupied the plants and, in doing so, demonstrated that any protection we might have from the ravages of this recession will come not from the generosity of employers, politicians or trade union bosses but from the action we take as rank and file workers.

In June 2000, Ford Motor Company outsourced production of some of its car parts to Visteon, an apparently independent company, but in reality one in which Ford retained a 60% holding. The relatively smooth changeover was negotiated on the promise that the ex-Ford – now Visteon – workers would remain on Ford terms and conditions, including pensions and redundancy packages.

Victory at Linamar

Rob Williams, Unite! convenor at Linamar’s Swansea plant, was reinstated on 11th June. An official indefinite strike was due to begin that day after a ballot resulting in 139 votes for and 19 against on an 88% turnout. Rob had been suspended on 28th April by car-part manufacturer Linamar, which had bought the former Visteon plant in July 2008, claiming an “irretrievable breakdown of trust”. This was met by an immediate walkout by the day shift; Rob locked himself in his office and workers surrounded it in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent his removal from the plant by the police. He was called in and sacked on 7th May.

This was clearly an attempt to break the union and force through attacks on pay, conditions and pensions by “buying down” – offering workers worse contracts in return for a one-off payment. The sacking immediately followed 140 voluntary redundancies and preceded pay negotiations where management were trying to get workers to turn down a Ford-linked 5.25% pay rise. Rob had also been prominent in organising support for the Ford Visteon workers who had occupied factories in Belfast and Enfield and were blockading Basildon.

This resistance doubtless both helped the Visteon workers win a partial victory in their occupation and galvanised Unite! which organised a ballot in record time, the result being announced on 28th May, to head off unofficial action. The fear of militancy in the car industry spreading would have been at forefront of both Linamar and Ford management’s and the Unite! bureaucracy’s thinking. It shows that rank and file militancy, direct action and solidarity work.

Strikes off, cuts on at universities

The academics’ union UCU at the University of Sussex cancelled industrial action planned for late June after university bosses declared they were “hopeful” they could avoid any compulsory redundancies.

It soon emerged however that compulsory redundancies had been transformed into ‘voluntary’ ones and the number of job losses remained at over 100, with a similarly severe impact on many courses and workloads expected.

One student mocked the management statement: “We are pleased to announce that the 100 have jumped, and were not pushed. The knives to their backs were unrelated.” A lecturer also commented that “I, among many, have been made ‘voluntarily’ redundant, after being selected for compulsory redundancy. The University seems to have got rid of everyone it wanted by forcing us to accept a ‘voluntary’ settlement.”

Out of the Frying Pan, a critical look at Works Councils

Works Councils are coming to Britain. But what are Works Councils, and what will they mean for working people and trade unions? Are the TUC unions right to welcome the changes in labour relations which Works Councils will bring? Works Councils, far from empowering people, act as a tool by which management can control and pacify people at work. The truth behind Works Councils is exposed here through the views of workers in France, who have witnessed their failure at first hand. The message is clear; there is nothing to be gained and much to lose from the introduction of a Works Council system in Britain. Out of the Frying Pan is a new, critical analysis of Works Councils and a look ahead at a real future for organising and fighting back in your workplace.

Wildcat #1

The first issue of Liverpool Solidarity Federation’s free local newsletter, Wildcat!


- Wildcat strike action hits Merseyside
- Liverpool Rejects BNP's fascism
- 100 years of the CNT
- No public dough for Joe
- Q&A: Alun Parry

For Workers Control - Lessons of recent struggles in the UK

8-page leaflet looking at what we can learn from the 2007 postal strike, the 2008 public sector strike and the 2009 Visteon occupation.

The leaflet was produced for a demo against the Labour Party Conference on Sunday 27th September. It is based on several previously published articles and we try to draw the lessons of recent relevant struggles in the UK.

For Workers’ Control

Lessons of recent struggles in the UK

Recent years have seen promising signs of a working class fightback, after decades of attacks on working class living standards.