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Visteon decision to close Belfast plant is a bitter twist

31 March, 2009 - by Pat Sheehan

Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep disappointment at the decision by Visteon to close its plant in Belfast.”   Mr. Adams said:   “Sinn Féin has been liaising closely with the management of Visteon in Britain and in Belfast, and with the local workforce. Our goal throughout has been to retain much needed local employment and defend the rights of the Visteon workers.   On Saturday morning I spoke by phone with Steve Gawne, Visteon’s UK Managing Director and in the course of recent years, I have consistently argued that the Belfast plant of Visteon (formerly of Ford) should be treated as a special case.   The global economic downturn has had an adverse impact on the automotive industry. Sinn Fein understands that at the start of this year, Visteon UK embarked on a viability assessment of its three remaining plants, including Belfast.   During this period, Sinn Féin knows that Invest NI met twice with Visteon about the Belfast plant.  (23rd February and 19th March 09).   I have submitted priority written questions in the Assembly to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment about the role of Invest NI and what measures it took to protect the 200 jobs in the Visteon plant.   We need to be convinced that Invest NI and Visteon exhausted all available options to keep this plant open.   There are also questions which will be asked in Irish America. Ford are directly implicated in the future of the Belfast plant, as its sole customer and former owner. If the local workforce is to be told that the plant no longer has a future, Sinn Féin will insist that the management of Ford explain this fate.”     Notes to editors   ·         There are more than 200 employees on site at Visteon Belfast. The plant manufactures products solely for its parent company Ford. Visteon ‘spun off’ from Ford in 2000, and agreements were made about terms and conditions by Ford with Visteon for those employees who transferred over. ·         Gerry Adams visited the Belfast plant in December 2005 and convened discussions in July 2006 which were aimed at brokering a plan which both ·         The New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson has also visited the Belfast plant. The New York City Comptroller owns $3.5m shares in Visteon and $41.2m shares in Ford. He has previously written to the two companies at Gerry Adams request to raise concerns and has visited the Belfast plant. ·         In the last three years, it has been rumoured at various stages that Visteon were going to wind down the product lines and relocate manufacturing to outside Europe. Documents have been uncovered which reveal a desire by Ford and Visteon to wind down the Belfast plant as far back as 3 years ago. ·         Over the same time, Visteon has sold the whole Belfast plant to Alburn, a property development company. Subsequently, they have leased sections of the site back from Alburn. ·         However, it that Visteon was also in receipt of public money from Invest NI for Research and Development of product lines at Belfast. It is understood that the agreement which would have governed the allocation of the investment to Visteon’s Belfast plant would have included a commitment from the company to future manufacturing on-site. ·         It has also been reported that Ford entered an agreement since last summer to cover losses from Visteon plants. The American government recently agreed a federal aid package for to support the automotive industry in its country. However, Ford has stated that it has not sought this federal aid. ·         It is understood that Visteon Corporation in USA recently threatened to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and it is known that the value of shares in Visteon Corporation have been falling in recent weeks. ·         In January 2009, Visteon UK began a viability assessment of its three plants, including the Belfast plant. The Board of Directors of Visteon UK sent a report to the Visteon corporation last Friday stating that their assessment was that Visteon UK was not viable and to continue operating, would require aid.

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