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(Updated May 3) Ireland & Britain: Car workers occupy plants over jobs -- Support Visteon workers!

May 3, 2009 -- Workers at Visteon, following a four-week battle, have gained a victory. After the occupation of the Visteon plants and 24-hour picketing when the company announced its liquidation, Ford/Visteon bosses were finally forced to concede to the workers' demands. Workers in Enfield and Basildon have already voted in favour of the deal, while those at Belfast will be voting soon. Below are reports and videos that recount events as they unfolded.

* * *

April 9, 2009 -- Socialist Appeal -- Visteon workers in Enfield, having been threatened with mass arrest by a court order, agree to leave peacefully under the recommendation of the union on April 9, 2009. Some workers feel that ending the occupation is a mistake, despite an agreement by the Visteon management to enter into negotiations.

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Listen to the Speakers' Corner show, broadcast on Resonance104.4FM in London, on the Visteon factory occupations in Britain with interviews from inside the factory. The radio show was done by Will Roche, member of BECTU.

Click here to download MP3-file (23MB)

* * *

March 31, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance -- 200 Visteon car plant workers in Belfast are blockading their factory after the company went into administration today. If they get away with it, over 600 workers in ex-Ford factories in Belfast, Enfield and Basildon will be sacked and left to claim statutory redundancy from the state. Even workers with over 30 years' service will only get about £9000 and most workers a lot less.

Also, their pensions plus those of ex-Visteon workers in Swansea and retirees will go into the Pension Protection Fund, which will result in reduced payments. This is the brutal side of capitalism -- no bailouts or bonuses like the bankrupt fat cats but bare minimum pay outs and the dole. Visteon UK executives have jumped ship are now employed by their own spin-off ``Visteon Engineering Services''. A life raft for rats escaping the sinking ship!

Visteon was spun-off by Ford in 2000 as a device to slash costs at the expense of the workforce. Two and then three-tier contracts then followed as well as outsourcing of ``indirect'' jobs. However, for Visteon bosses this wasn’t enough.

They’ve spent the last three-and-a-half years demanding that Visteon workers break their Ford ``mirrored'' contracts. No doubt there will be some in the unions who will agree with management that if only the workforce had agreed cuts in their pay, pensions, terms and conditions, insolvency could have been avoided. The reality is however, that Visteon, like General Motors’ spin-off Delphi, was never viable.

Visteon workers were correct to resist and have had at least more income by doing so. It was that successful battle that has given the Belfast workers the confidence to resist now.

These workers want to put pressure on Ford to intervene to stop the sackings. They are appealing to the unions in Ford to support them by not using parts shipped in to replace those from Belfast. If that fails, the occupation can be built to involve the trade union movement and working-class community to force
the government to intervene to nationalise Visteon to save these jobs.

Messages of support/offers of help to John Maguire, Belfast Unite Convenor, at 078 1659 0380

* * *

April 1, 2009 -- Socialist Appeal -- Visteon workers in Enfield and Basildon have joined with Belfast workers in occupying their plants. Management have put the firm into administration. Belfast workers have been defending their occupation by staying in overnight. The workers are taking action because they have to. They were just brutally kicked off the premises without any notice. If management get away with this, 600 workers at the three plants will be sacked and left on the minimum statutory redundancy pay. Statutory redundancy pay is paltry. Even workers with 30 years’ service are only entitled to £9000 and most will get far less.

In Belfast John McGowan, shift leader at Visteon, said: “I’m just dumbstruck. I feel it’s totally unjust the way we’re being treated by the company. They have had redundancy packages in the past due to the downturn in sales.

“Last year they were offering redundancy packages of £30,000 minimum. Now they’re telling me for my 30 years loyalty to this company I’m getting a redundancy package which is capped at just over £9000. That’s totally unjust and unfair.”

The background to the dispute is that Visteon was spun off from Ford as a scam to attack workers’ pay and conditions. Before incorporation in 2000 the plants were part of the Ford combine, making parts for the cars. The workers were on the normal Ford wages and conditions. The bosses’ idea was to uncouple workers’ pay at the component suppliers from those in the main plant. Visteon workers have consistently fought attempts to downgrade their labour since 2000, but now management says the firm is losing money.

Going into administration will also put the workers’ pensions in peril. The money will end up in the Pension Protection Fund, where it will in effect become a zombie fund, with no top-ups and guarantees to the workers and pensioners not honoured, as they would have to do if Visteon were a going concern.

No flies on Visteon management. They have setup a separate outfit called Visteon Engineering Services, which is in effect a life raft to carry their own pensions to safety away from the wreckage of Visteon that they have created.

Over and over again Ford management swore blind that the creation of Visteon was not just a device to enable them to dodge out of their obligations to the components’ workforce. Redundant Ford workers have always walked away with a decent package in the past. In 2000 Ford gave workers cast iron guarantees, which they have shamelessly broken.

The occupying workers are appealing to Ford workers for solidarity in the form of blacking alternative sources of supply for the components Visteon have always delivered. Putting Visteon into administration is a squalid manoeuvre to load the crisis in the motor industry onto the workers. But the workers are fighting back! We see the unity in action of Protestant and Catholic workers in Belfast, and of British and Irish workers across these islands.

* * *

On April 6, 2009, seven days after occupying their factory in Basildon in  Essex, the Visteon car plant workers decide to visit their former boss, Steve Gawne, at his country manor to hand deliver a letter demanding justice be served.

Irish Republican Socialist Party: `Nationalise Visteon under workers' control'

April 8, 2009 -- The IRSP on April 7, 2009, accused local politicians of rerouting responsibility regarding the investment and manufacturing crisis in the North of Ireland. The IRSP employment spokesperson Sean White, told activists last night that it was easy to blame a global economic crises or credit crunch rather than blame the companies and bankers who intentionally created the crisis; a crisis created in the interest of profit.

The current economic situation may be global; but the loss of jobs locally is a consequence of the Stormont Programme for Government with its dependency on inward investment. Job losses are the result of policies in favour of the employers whilst ignoring the needs of workers.

The long-term needs of the workers were known at Visteon UK when Stormont was subsidising the profits of its directors.

Sean White went on to say; “There is no ‘natural’ order to the economy. There are no innate, static laws overriding economic behaviour. It is a myth to say nothing can be done. What is termed the ‘economy’ is the way people work, to produce goods and services, and then decide how, where when to sell or use what they produce. People decide rightly or wrongly. It is people who make success, make mistakes. It is people who gamble for profit. It is people who exploit other people. We must move away from treating the economy as if it is a fluke in the weather.”

All economists know that recessions and inflation don’t just happen. They are caused. The banks deliberately restricted the flow of currency; that is a fact, a fact not disputed by the bankers. Bankers were aware that a restriction of currency gives way to a recession.

The banks responsible for investment have so far ignored the pleas from the First Minister Peter D. Robinson MP MLA and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness. On December 16,  2008, First Minister Robinson and deputy McGuiness and their executive colleagues Nigel Dodd and Arlene Foster tmet with the chief executives of local banks to explore further initiatives to ease the impact of the present economic downturn on consumers and businesses. To date there has been no response.

Who governs? The banks or the elected representatives?

The IRSP is asking whatever happened to the billions investment promised to create new jobs in current industries. A small number of people made decisions regarding how this money was used or if it was used. The IRSP believes that the Irish people deserve answers.

Companies are downsizing or closing as a consequence of poor investment. Of course there is the immediate response car sales are down by an average of 33%, but remember in generic terms profit averages 40%. Decreases in profit are compensated with job losses and cuts in labour; in turn increasing the workload on workers. There is no evidence of any major investment outside of construction. But there is evidence that the banks responsible for investment paid increased bonuses to their directors.

Transnational companies here are not facing unreserved profit loss. TNCs require extensive returns; not marginal profit. The reported losses of Visteon UK are percentage falls in profit. However, such profit is not great enough for TNC investment.

Visteon UK's reported losses totalled £669 m. However in the West Belfast section of the company administrators found no evidence of any losses. According to the IRSP spokesperson there is not a single component produced by Visteon that we cannot match in terms of a nationalised industry.

Different members of the Stormont Government have come out with statements in support of workers who face job losses. But they place no blame on the employers. There is an illusion that Stormont cannot and does not want to interfere in free-market capitalism. An illusion partly created by the first and second ministers when they visit the US with their begging bowls and partly the Programme for Government. They over emphasise no government interference.

In fact, without Stormont with its inward investment policies, TNCs could not exist at all. Government actions and programs have tended to reinforce and stabilise the basic relationships of all TNCs; guaranteeing private property rights, supplying British and US business (including Ford and later Visteon UK) with needed inputs (like reliable infrastructure and skilled, disciplined workers), expanding markets and managing social relationships in a way that promotes both stability and profitability. If Stormont can interfere on behalf of the bosses, it can interfere on behalf of the workers.

What was not considered by our MLA’s waltzing about in Stormont and should be, is that workers continue to produce the said components for Ford or any other car company. The assembly has already stated that “we are a growing, a dynamic, innovative economy, in a position to invest and build our own infrastructure with a highly trained workforce.”

The factory should be nationalised under workers’ control. But that would be too radical a step for any of the parties in Stormont already committed to administering the neoliberal economic policies of the pro-business Brown government in Westminster.

[Originally published in the E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, The Plough, Vol. 6, No. 4, April 8th 2009.]

Comments

A Visteon victory? Union leaders’ supporters re-write dictionary

From http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/a-visteon-victory-union-leaders-supporters-re-write-dictionary/

A Visteon victory? Union leaders’ supporters re-write dictionary

John McAnulty in Belfast wrote this short, but customarily abrasive, piece for Socialist Democracy’s site which more accurately reflects the real outcome of the strike than some of the more jubilant reports. It was a partial victory which resulted in the Visteon workers getting more in redundancy payments due to their fight. That’s temporary good news for the workers and their families. It will mean a big improvement in their quality of life for a while but they are still out of work and the chances of anyone finding a comparable job or wage in Belfast are about zero. It’s not likely to be much better in Enfield and Basildon in the coming year or two either.

Visteon car workers in west Belfast have voted to accept a deal to end the occupation of the factory.  The deal offered an increased redundancy payment, the payment of holiday pay and compensation in lieu of notice. Workers backed the deal on Sunday 3rd May by 147 to 34. They had little choice, as their union had already signed up, publicly lauded the deal and recommended acceptance. Voting no would have been to cast themselves free of the ‘support’ of the Unite bureaucracy and left them facing both union and multinational bosses.

What was really astounding was the comments of the union spokesperson.

Unite spokesman Roger Madison said the deal was “10 times what people were being offered originally”.

“They’ve only been offered this because of the actions taken, especially by the people in West Belfast – to lock themselves in a plant for nearly a month is refreshing – it’s old-fashioned trade unionism.”

The company was formerly owned by Ford, and Mr Madison said it was “the sort of closure package we would see if a Ford plant was closing”.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to keep these people in their jobs, but in terms of a financial package, we think we’ve done the best we possibly can,” he said.

Later the union admitted that the workers had lost their pension rights and said that they would revisit this issue.

Almost 600 jobs were lost at Visteon’s three plants in Belfast, Basildon and Enfield, with staff being given less than an hour’s notice.  At the end of a 34-day occupation the job loss stands, as does the loss of pension rights that the workers contributed to. If the union leadership consider this a victory what would defeat look like?

The unions weren’t alone.  Sinn Fein, through their cover sheet the Andersonstown News, had front-page headlines proclaiming a victory for ‘Peoples’ Power.’ At an earlier meeting discussing Visteon, Socialist Workers Party spokesperson Eamonn McCann had claimed that there was no such thing as defeat in industrial struggles – to struggle was in itself a form of victory.

So what does victory mean in these circumstances? It means, in the case of UNITE and Sinn Fein, the outer edge of what is possible from a process of lobbying capitalism.  They must define victory in this way because the idea of confronting and challenging capitalism does not exist for organisations that are in partnership with the capitalists. For the SWP it means supporting their member Jimmy Kelly in the leadership of UNITE and putting their links with the bureaucracy above the needs of the working class.

‘Visteon Victory’ means something different to workers.  It means that organisations like the UNITE bureaucracy and the Sinn Fein leadership cannot possibly be considered as useful aids in the battle against capitalism and must be removed from the field of play if workers are to have a fighting chance.

 

Debate over Visteon outcome

From Socialist Unity blog

9 May, 2009

VISTEON - A CLEAR CUT VICTORY

Andy Newman

Trade union tactics must often be very finely judged.

Any industrial action needs to both involve the maximum unity of the workforce and membership, and also exert the maximum pressure on management; but because the political and trade union consciousness of the workforce is very uneven, you need to be constantly conscious of whether the action could dissipate, as some members stop believing they can  win.

There is an added problem, that often there is a minority who want to continue the struggle come what may, perhaps without a nuanced tactical understanding of the possibilities.

The recent Visteon strikes are a good example. In an exemplary show of initiative and militancy the workers occupied in Belfast, Enfield and Basildon, which then became the foci of networks of trade union and community solidarity. It was an heroic and inspirational fight, that blew away the cobwebs of inertia that had greeted the closure of Woolworths, and other job losses.

But before we get too carried away with our assesment of the workforces’ bargaining position, let us consider that Visteon were seeking to close the factories, so the occupations were an interruption to cash flow stopping the selling the assets, but were not hitting their production; and secondly that through the use of threats of courts, police and bailiffs, only Belfast was still in occupation at the time a deal was reached.

That is, the leverage that the workforce had over Visteon and Ford was potentially peaking when the deal was agreed, and there was a substantial risk that if the deal was turned down, the bailiffs would have gone into the Belfast plant, and the pickets at Enfield and Basildon would boil down to a hard core of last-standers, like the tragic defeat at Gate Gourmet, while the rest of the workforce melted away.

Now it is possible to construct other scenarios, but experience of the British labour movement over the last few years suggests that this would be a likely enough scenario to base calculations upon it.

In that context, getting a deal out of Ford and Visteon while the workforce has maximum political leverage was an outstanding victory. The risk of rejecting the deal was that management could have withdrawn it, and the workforce could have got nothing.

Now it is true that the workforce didn’t get their jobs back, and the pensions issue was unresolved. But what were the realistic chances of getting the factories reopened?

To have done so would have needed a political context where there existed pressure on the government to step in. That is not the current political reality, and occupations by relatively small factories in the recession stricken car industry were not going to be able to change that.

Therefore, to talk down the deal, and say that the workforce should have stuck out for a rescue package, as some are doing, would both be a strategic and tactical mistake, and is perhaps objectively anti-trade union; because it is demobilising and demotivating to criticise a clear victory , because it feeds into a climate of cynicism.

Visteon was a victory, militancy was shown to pay, and if we want to create a different political climate where the government steps in to save threatened manufacturing jobs, then there will be no short cuts - we need to do the patient long haul hard work of winning that argument in wider society.

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From Liam Macuaid's blog

Internet critics trash Visteon article

John McAnulty’s recent article on the Visteon occupation has provoked some controversy both on this site and at Socialist Unity. John replies to some of the points here.

There is a certain light-headedness about comments on my recent Visteon article that I find astonishing. There is really little that is more fundamental Visteon Belfast Protest by norman_briggs.in working class politics than questions of victory and defeat that arise every day in the course of class struggle.

One would expect that socialist activists would have some formal schema, some common agreement about something as basic as winning and losing, rather than rely on off-the-cuff impressionism or dogmatic assertion.

Two definitions of victory have been offered. The new SWP line – that struggle is itself a victory – is just plain daft. The other, that any improvement is victory – does not stand scrutiny. In the case of the Visteon workers they lost jobs, pensions and redundancy rights and were given a few moments to leave the factory. At the end they received redundancy and holiday pay and a severance payment. The individual payments varied with length of service. This is clearly an improvement on nothing, but to claim that workers who have lost jobs and pensions have won a victory is hard to take.

The claims of victory are a standard response of union leaderships anxious to obscure how little they have achieved for their members and are increasingly taken at face value by leftists wedded to a strategy of unity with the bureaucrats.

One left critic of my article illustrated this perfectly, falsely claiming that my view was that only the full restoration of jobs would have counted as victory and arguing that, because police and courts had forced workers out of the English factories, a deal had to be struck before bargaining chips slipped from the workers hands. But this is a wild distortion. There are plenty of workers available to testify that they were not forced from the factories by police, but coaxed out by the union bureaucracy. So the steely negotiators determining the best moment to strike a deal are also those removing cards from the workers hands!

It is of course the case that a battle can end without meeting its objectives but can generate a strategic advantage. In order to establish this it is necessary to look at the nature of the employers attack.

In the Visteon struggle Ford used shell companies, creative accounting and specialist administrations who more and more use the shock tactic of instant dismissal to force workers out.

All of these remain intact. Even when the ‘bankrupt’ Visteon came up with severance pay no questions were asked. Both the unions and the local political parties remain committed to sweetheart deals with the transnationals

The other direction in which gains might have been made is in the development of broader forms of organization able to force back these kinds of attacks in the future. Unfortunately the Visteon struggle remained in-house, with offers of support from local NUJ and INTO activists not taken up and official demonstrations almost comic in their insincerity and ineffectiveness.

The sorts of attacks represented by Visteon will become more and more common. The pressure on workers to defend themselves will become more intense. That’s why it is so essential that questions of victory and defeat are dealt with fully and honestly.

* * *

From Socialist Unity blog

13 May, 2009

VISTEON – UNITE DID WELL AT EVERY LEVEL

Andy Newman

You will recall an earlier article on the Visteon dispute, where I criticised those who are seeking to minimise the scale of the victory.

Liam Mac Uaid has since published a reply by John  McNulty to this, as follows:

One left critic of my article illustrated this perfectly, falsely claiming that my view was that only the full restoration of jobs would have counted as victory and arguing that, because police and courts had forced workers out of the English factories, a deal had to be struck before bargaining chips slipped from the workers hands. But this is a wild distortion. There are plenty of workers available to testify that they were not forced from the factories by police, but coaxed out by the union bureaucracy. So the steely negotiators determining the best moment to strike a deal are also those removing cards from the workers hands!

It is of course the case that a battle can end without meeting its objectives but can generate a strategic advantage. In order to establish this it is necessary to look at the nature of the employers attack.

In the Visteon struggle Ford used shell companies, creative accounting and specialist administrations who more and more use the shock tactic of instant dismissal to force workers out.

All of these remain intact. Even when the ‘bankrupt’ Visteon came up with severance pay no questions were asked. Both the unions and the local political parties remain committed to sweetheart deals with the transnationals

The other direction in which gains might have been made is in the development of broader forms of organization able to force back these kinds of attacks in the future. Unfortunately the Visteon struggle remained in-house, with offers of support from local NUJ and INTO activists not taken up and official demonstrations almost comic in their insincerity and ineffectiveness.

Now it is worth quoting how amazingly anti-trade union original article by John McNulty was, and which Liam said “accurately reflects the real outcome of the strike”

The article argued that:

“‘Visteon Victory’ means something different to workers. It means that organisations like the UNITE bureaucracy … cannot possibly be considered as useful aids in the battle against capitalism and must be removed from the field of play if workers are to have a fighting chance.”

And

“the union admitted that the workers had lost their pension rights and said that they would revisit this issue. Almost 600 jobs were lost at Visteon’s three plants in Belfast, Basildon and Enfield, with staff being given less than an hour’s notice. At the end of a 34-day occupation the job loss stands, as does the loss of pension rights that the workers contributed to. If the union leadership consider this a victory what would defeat look like? ”

So the article described the deal in terms akin to being a defeat, and said that workers would be better of without the unions, and that the UNITE “bureaucracy” should be swept from “the field of battle”.

Ok, so let us revisit this.

What was the original position? The workers were given an hour’s notice, and told they would not even get the previous week’s pay, as the company were in administration. At the end of the dispute, even workers with less than three years who had never worked directly for Ford service got 26 weeks pay, and some long term workers got up to a £60000 payout.

The pension issue remains unresolved, and is the type of question where legal action is likely to be fruitful, as there are contractual obligations involved, that the company seems to have reneged upon.

Now, UNITE gave assistance at every level, including behind the scenes, and working to get favourable press coverage; both General Secretaries were involved in negotiating with Ford and Visteon, including flying a General Secretary and a convenor to New York for talks.

Without UNITE being able to leverage its influence as a big national union there would have been no possibility of the high level talks with Ford that resulted in the deal; and had the union not shown that level of commitment to the workers, then the morale of the workforce would not have sustained a long term struggle. Without UNITE, the workforce would not have been able to get a deal; and without the big umbrella of the union to protect them, Visteon managers would have been able to crush the workplace leaders in the courts.

So what of the union advising workers to discontinue the occupations? This reminds me of a speech by Bob Crow at the National Shop Stewards Network conference two years ago. Bob had taken some stick for the RMT officially repudiating some unofficial action on the tubes. He was forthright in response, he said he saw nothing wrong with unofficial action, but if you start an unofficial dispute you have to be able to go on and win it as an unofficial dispute. The anti-trade union laws means that the unions need to be very circumspect about being seem to endorse unofficial or illegal acts.

Visteon was an inspiring and inspirational action, but that militancy was a delicate flame in a storm. The union was right to nurture and encourage the dispute, but it was never going to spread like a forest fire and overturn the whole culture of timidity and lack of workplace organisation. Even my own limited involvement representing workers in individual redundancy consultations and appeals at a Honda components factory informs me that the mood at Visteon was exceptional, and in the main workers in the car industry are not confident nor combative over redundancies. Putting the UNITE union into direct challenge to the authority of the courts was not a realistic option, and would not have been either strategiclaly or tactically wise or justified.

So what about the gains that McNulty thinks the workforce should have held out for – to stop Ford using shell companies; and to build lasting forms of trade union organisation.

Well, I am sorry but that is not how trade unions work. The workforce of three small components factories in the UK were not going to overturn the entire business structure of a major multinational, and McNulty’s idea that the workers should have turned down a great severance package in order to take on Fords over their company organisational structure is utopian.

McNulty also says that he was not arguing keeping their jobs was the only result he would have considered a victory; but that is incompatible with saying that the Visteon workers should have fought for “development of broader forms of organization able to force back these kinds of attacks in the future”. But if they lost their own jobs, they wouldn’t have any organisation! Never have I known of workers being prepared to turn down a good deal, in order to pursue the abstract concept of “better organisation” for other workers in other workplaces. And certainly some on the left think that UNITE failed in not keeping the plants open, the SWP rather unrealistically claiming that:

The jobs could have been saved. The Occupations, pickets and solidarity forced Ford to the negotiating table. Had Unite the union supported calls for workers to black parts and  stop production throughout the Ford group, the outcome and result would have been far better, including the plant being re opened.

There is one thing I agree with McNulty over, he concludes:

“The sorts of attacks represented by Visteon will become more and more common. The pressure on workers to defend themselves will become more intense. That’s why it is so essential that questions of victory and defeat are dealt with fully and honestly.”

Indeed, so when the unions win a clear and brilliant victory, then we should say so, and not minimise what was gained, and we need to avoid ridiculous anti-trade union rhetoric like

“organisations like the UNITE bureaucracy … cannot possibly be considered as useful aids in the battle against capitalism and must be removed from the field of play if workers are to have a fighting chance.”

 

 

Visteon debate continues

Take what you’re given and be grateful
Posted on May 14, 2009
by John McAnulty
(http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/take-what-youre-given-and-be...)

Andy Newman distorts the discussion with dishonesty. He claims that the threats of courts, police and bailiffs, were what ended the English Visteon occupations. When I point out that it was the bureaucracy who ended the occupation he immediately changes tack: “So what of the union advising workers to discontinue the occupations? “ Having conceded the bureaucracy’s role he then amends his definition of
victory. In his first post it was the gain in morale and the network of support that will encourage further workers action. Now that he has conceded that the only force still standing after the jobs were lost and the campaigns wound down is the bureaucracy itself that argument falls flat. The settlement becomes a victory in itself and his tone becomes bombastic : “some long term workers got up to a £60000 payout” . Just what do these people want? We negotiated our fingers to the bone and a few got 2 years’ severance pay. Instead of correction or retreat we get more slurs. He claims that my position is that “workers would be better of without the unions”.

“McNulty’s (he can’t get my name right) idea that the workers should have turned down a great severance package in order to take on Fords over their company organisational structure is utopian”. For the record I do not believe that workers would be better off without unions. I hold to the completely unremarkable Marxist idea that the union bureaucracy has interests as a bureaucracy that are frequency at variance with those of the workers and the greater the self-organisation of the workers and the more they seize democratic control of the unions the better their interests will be represented. I did not suggest anywhere that the workers should have turned down a severance pay in order to take on Fords. As anyone can see by reading the original piece at: http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentAVisteonVictory.h...

I was arguing that the wider the demands and the broader the struggle the greater the gains at the end. It is only in the eyes of the bureaucracy and their sycophants that a broader struggle and gains for the workers are in contradiction.

What Andy’s comments make clear is that the division between us is ideological. He believes that the workers must support the bureaucrats. I believe that the union must support the workers. The fact that Andy comments patronisingly about workers getting 26 weeks’ severance pay fills me with rage. The only person who has the right to call that a good deal is the person who ended up with the payment. In fact Andy’s comments abound with all the sins of the bureaucracy, conservatism about what can be achieved, the union stands above the workers, solutions are long-term and reformist involving a friendly government that will use the law in the workers interest, the workers are patronised and, when not suitably grateful, the tone becomes hostile.

Andy Newman quotes Bob Crow: “he saw nothing wrong with unofficial action, but if you start an unofficial dispute you have to be able to go on and win it as an unofficial dispute. The anti-trade unioimagen laws mean that the unions need to be very circumspect about being seen to endorse unofficial or illegal acts”. So we get to the nub of the matter. We have an unrestrained attack on workers. The workers react in the only way that could offer them any protection. The action remains unofficial for the duration of the dispute – the negotiations, and the settlement are conducted primarily to protect the bureaucracy rather than widen the struggle and it is followed by endless bombast – in part because the bureaucrats have surprised themselves by getting any kind of settlement.

By the way Andy, my name is John McAnulty. It represents many generations of very stubborn people who refused to allow their name to be Anglicised. I would be grateful if you would get it right.

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