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A Visteon victory?  Union leaders, supporters re-write dictionary.

John McAnulty 

5 May 2009

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 organizations 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 organizations 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. 


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