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Visteon row looks near to resolution

By Lesley-Anne Henry

The long-running bitter dispute at the Visteon car parts plant is nearing a resolution.

A settlement deal with enhanced payments for redundancy, compensation in lieu of notice and holiday pay has been put to the 210 workers who have been occupying the west Belfast factory for more than a month.

A vote on the deal, which will see workers get more than a year’s salary, is expected tomorrow and the union, Unite, said it would be urging members to accept the new and improved terms.

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite said: “This is a tremendous victory for these workers, and a demonstration to workers everywhere that when you fight for justice you can win. The deal now on the table is a massive improvement from where we started, which was 610 men and women thrown on the dole with only the expectation of basic state redundancy pay.

“By going beyond even what Ford workers themselves can expect in redundancy pay, Visteon has acknowledged the loyalty and commitment this workforce has shown to both them and to Ford before them.”

Almost 600 jobs were lost at Visteon's three plants across the UK. Former employees in Basildon and Enfield were expected to vote to accept the proposal last night.

Added Mr Woodley: “This should send a message to employers everywhere — you will not get away with treating our members like cannon fodder.”

In a statement last night, Unite said the proposal would see a higher redundancy package offered to workers with long service and who worked for former owners Ford. Some 510 out of the 610-strong workforce are former Ford employees.

The union also claimed workers with shorter service could expect to receive “10 times” the statutory redundancy pay.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite added: “This is a proud moment for these workers and their union. It shows that even in the bleakest of circumstances, if you stand up to defend what is right you will very often win.”

It is understood Ford has also agreed to give preferential treatment to former Visteon workers who may apply for work at Ford's UK plants in the future.

As part of their high profile campaign the sacked Visteon workers, staged a six week sit-in at the company, protested outside a number of Ford car showrooms across Northern Ireland and generated cross party political support.

Charlie Maxwell, a former forklift driver who had worked at Visteon for 15 years said it had all been worthwhile.

“It has been worthwhile. Four and a half weeks ago we were getting nothing. We were getting six minutes notice, we were dumped on the street. The message I would give out is that action when it is |required and if it is capable can work.”

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