"These men and women worked for sometimes up to 40 years for their pensions, having believed Ford's promises that their entitlements would be mirrored when Visteon was spun out of its parent company. Now it looks as thought the pensioners will have take Ford to court to get their money. "Ford may argue that it has no obligation towards its former workers but, at the very least, it has a moral obligation, and its executives should be ashamed that they are able to treat, hard-working, diligent employees in this way. "The pensioners must win this case. If they don't, it raises the spectre of other multi-nationals - many of whom have huge holes in their pension plans - dumping poorly performing divisions and staff entitlements on the UK taxpayer. It is a precedent, and it is in everybody's interest to support the Visteon pensioners."Visteon, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, was spun out of Ford in 2000. By 2004, it employed 70,000 staff at over 200 sites in 27 countries around the world, including the UK, and turned over $18.7 billion in sales. In 2005, Visteon offloaded 17 unprofitable plants and six offices.
In 2006, Visteon delisted from the New York Stock Exchange after its share price dropped to two cents. On March 31 this year, the company’s UK operation went into administration with debts of £669m. Some 560 staff at plants in Enfield, Belfast and Basildon were given less than an hour’s notice of the redundancies.
Those workers then occupied their factories, claiming that they had been given guarantees on pay and conditions when Visteon separated from Ford. Several weeks of protest led to assurances from both Ford and Visteon that severance packages would be improved. However, shortly afterwards, the Visteon UK Pension Fund had entered the assessment period for the Pension Protection Fund.
The PPF had been established by the Government following a long campaign involving Cardiff steel workers and Welsh politicians, after the collapse of Allied Steel and Wire in 2002 left those workers without pensions.
However, the 3,000 ex-employees of Visteon UK – including 700 in Swansea and workers who have been paying into a Ford pension fund for up to 40 years - have since discovered that they may receive less than half of what they are owed if they are paid through the PPF.
The Visteon Pension Action Group is now planning to take Ford to court, claiming it was promised safeguards for the fund when Visteon was spun off. It also argues that the PPF may well be unsustainable in the long run. The pensions regulator is also examining the group’s claims. The group is now planning to take Ford to court, after final talks with Ford in New York failed last month. It is now waiting to see whether the union will back its claim in court.
A mass demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament takes place on 31 March 2010 - transport is going from Swansea.