By Gary Mulcahy, 8 May 2009
The Visteon workers have shown by their determined and militant action that workers are not helpless against the tidal wave of wage cuts and job losses sweeping the globe. Like many other groups of workers they have been treated deplorably by Visteon and Ford bosses who have made huge profits down the years off the backs of these workers.
But the refusal of Visteon workers to be treated like dirt by occupying the Belfast plant and the solidarity blockades in the sister plants in Enfield and Basildon in England has been inspirational to all workers who now see that action can force concessions and victories for working people.
When Visteon workers were told they had six minutes to vacate the factory in Finaghy, they could have decided to walk away and accept the minimum state redundancy. But they stood their ground and saw that by occupying the plant they could mount a battle to get a decent settlement. As support came flooding in from all corners of Ireland, Britain and internationally, the potential to actually save these much needed jobs became apparent.
The unions now need to take up where Visteon left off, by launching a real campaign to save jobs in both the private sector and the public sector. Any companies which lay off workers should be forced to open the books and allow the accounts to be inspected by the labour movement. Profits should be used to re-invest to protect jobs not to enrich wealthy bosses. The unions must also demand that companies carrying out substantial redundancies or which face closure should be nationalised and run democratically by working people to save jobs. Instead alternative plans of production should be put in place to produce goods which are needed in society, together with the appropriate investment in retooling and retraining.
Thousands of jobs in the public sector are also under threat as a result of the “efficiency” cuts being implemented by the Northern Ireland Executive. The unions must fight these cuts in public services. Our hospitals are already under massive strain as a result of lack of staff and investment, yet thousands of jobs are to be cut across the health service.
Workers also need a political voice which can challenge the pro-big business right wing and sectarian parties carrying out these attacks. The unions should stop propping up the political corpse of New Labour in Britain. Instead of donating millions of members money to a party which is carrying out attacks on workers, this money should be used to launch a new mass party which represents the interests of workers. In Northern Ireland, we need a new mass party which unites workers politically against the privatisation and cuts agenda of the Assembly parties and stands for a genuine socialist society where peoples needs are put ahead of profit.