23 April 2009 Edition

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Visteon workers to fight eviction

Patricia McKeown at Visteon rally

Patricia McKeown at Visteon rally

BY EMMA CLANCY

WORKERS occupying the west Belfast Visteon car parts factory since the company announced its closure on 31 March have said they will challenge legal attempts to have them evicted from the site. An attempt by Visteon administrators KPMG to have the High Court order their eviction was adjourned until Friday.  
The workers are demanding the redundancy payments and pensions they were guaranteed by Visteon and motor giant Ford, which it was spun out of in 2000.
Speaking in the Assembly on Monday 20 April, Sinn Féin west Belfast MLA Paul Maskey condemned the decision to try to force the protesting workers to vacate the site and called on the company to negotiate with the Visteon workers.
“This is a regrettable step and will not go any way to resolving the outstanding issues”, Maskey said.
On Friday, 17 April up to 1,000 workers brought Belfast city centre to a standstill in a lunchtime rally and march for jobs and workers’ rights on Friday 17 April. Bus drivers stopped work to join the protest, which was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) in solidarity with the thousands affected by mass redundancies.
More than 1,600 jobs have been lost across the North in the past few weeks, with the manufacturing sector being hit especially hard. Workers at Bombardier, FG Wilson, Nortel and Nu-Track, among other companies, have been laid off.
Speaking in support of the Visteon workers’ factory occupation at the rally, Irish secretary of Unite Jimmy Kelly said: “Legal action is now being taken against the workers occupying the plant, and there may come a day when there will be an attempt to force them out. They could even face jail.”
To a roar of applause he said, “We must support them to the hilt.”


INVESTIGATION CALL
Assistant general-secretary of the ICTU Peter Bunting said: “Let’s be clear – Visteon Belfast is not closing because the market is gone. The jobs are going to South Africa so the company can exploit cheap labour. There should be an investigation into why public money, through Invest NI, was granted to a company in the process of exporting jobs from the community.
“Our communities, many of which are already deprived, cannot sustain these mass redundancies.”
He called on the Executive to establish a protection fund for workers who have been laid off during the recession.
Bunting also said that while the recent job losses can be partly blamed on the recession, “Insult has been added to injury by the employment practices of some employers who have taken advantage of weak employment rights legislation.”
ICTU President Patricia McKeown also slammed the anti-worker laws and said a Bill of Rights for the North could address some of these problems.
Sinn Féin activists and elected representatives attended the rally. Speaking after the protest, south Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said: “Sinn Féin sends solidarity to those men and women who have found themselves thrown out of work over the last number of weeks. This has had a huge impact on them, their families and their communities.
“Sinn Féin has called for the Executive to have greater fiscal powers in order to benefit local workers and their families. As well as this the bringing forward of capital projects in the same way as the Scottish Assembly brought forward £230 million of capital projects into 2009/2010 would go a long way to help offset job losses in the construction and other industries and create a stimulus for the economy as a whole.”

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