Pensions battle

Submitted by Newcastle on 30 July, 2009 - 6:26 Author: Vicki Morris

When sacked Visteon workers accepted the deal offered to them in May — a lot more redundancy pay — they continued campaigning.

Their union Unite promised to campaign on the workers’ reduced pensions, an issue left out of the deal. It is not clear that the union has done enough on that front, but the Visteon ex-workers themselves, now organised as Visteon pensioners, have picketed Ford car showrooms and the Dunton research facility, and lobbied meetings of the pension trustees.

When Visteon UK went bust in March , workers’ pensions were transfered to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), entailing delays in pay-outs (whereas Ford mirror contract workers can draw pension from age 57), and about 10 per cent cut from the pension. A fresh threat has emerged: the Visteon pension fund is in deficit; three thousand pensioners, current and future, could lose much more.

The workers’ resolve has been stiffened by news of the greed of the Visteon corporation, Visteon UK’s parent company, which went into bankruptcy protection in the US in May. Reports appeared like this, in the Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review:

“Visteon Corp., which moved last week to cut off retiree health-care benefits, has asked a bankruptcy judge to authorize up to $80 million in management and insider bonuses...

“In the first of three bonus programs, Visteon is asking authorization to spread up to $30 million around to 100 senior managers. That’s slightly less than what it would cost Visteon to continue retiree medical benefits this year for 6,650 former workers...”

The company explained:

“The demands placed upon... senior management... have never been greater... The bonus programs are designed to get ‘a great deal of work’ out of the recipients...”

The Visteon workers’ experience of struggle and solidarity has made them more political. Several Visteon activists joined socialist groups. Former Visteon convenor Ron Clarke responded quickly to the Vestas campaign and met them to discuss the possibility of occupation.

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