Britain: Vestas workers end occupation, but `the campaign is anything but over'
Mike Bradley was one of the original workers who occupied the offices of Vestas. He gave an impassioned speech at the August 8 rally in Newport, Isle of Wight, where he reminded supporters that the struggle for Vestas to be nationalised can still be won. Video from Ventnor Blog.
August 7, 2009 -- http://savevestas.wordpress.com -- The Vestas workers' occupation of the Newport [Isle of Wight wind turbine] plant occupation may be over, but the campaign is very definitely not. In fact, ... “it’s just getting going”!
Vestas’ doings will still be disrupted as they go about attempting to ``tie up'' business on the Isle of Wight. Workers, activists and locals remain wholly committed, in ever-growing numbers, to the campaign to save the green-collar jobs in Newport and Southampton.
Europe-wide, Vestas is feeling the blast of public dissent over this factory closure. It is being forced to understand that wider issues are at stake here than simply ``job cuts'': this economic meltdown coincides with the beginnings worldwide of devastating climate change – capitalism’s self-inflicted carnage – fatal not only to bats but human beings in their millions.
Inaction, which our leaders attempt to attribute to the imperfections of the market and the industrial planning system we have nationally, is not acceptable to anyone with an interest in the world.
Vestas workers' march shows the fight for jobs goes on
By Sian Ruddick, Newport, Isle of Wight
August 8, 2009 -- Socialist Worker (UK) -- More than 250 workers, supporters and activists gathered in St Thomas's Square in Newport, the Isle of Wight, today to show Vestas management and the government that their campaign for jobs and justice for Vestas workers is far from over. The rally was led by Vestas workers who had occupied the factory for two and a half weeks in protest at the closure of their factory and the loss of 600 jobs. They ended their occupation yesterday.
Mike, one of the workers, told the rally, “We have shown that ordinary people can stand up and make a difference. I'm not an eco-warrior. I'm just a normal guy standing up for my family and for the island's economy.
“The closure doesn't just affect us, it affects the whole island. That's why it's so important for us to stay organised. We nee to put pressure on the government and on the council of the Isle of Wight to save these jobs.”
Many Vestas workers spoke at the rally and thanked people for their support. Mark Smith told the crowd, “Don't allow yourselves to be bullied by management. We've shown that, even if they try to stop you from organising, you still can.”
Workers from different unions joined the march to back the Vestas workers, including from the GMB, Unison and RMT, as well as environmental campaigners.
Jonathan Neale from the Campaign Against Climate Change said, “All over the country people are facing a similar situation and this struggle has been an inspiration to them. The national day of action on Wednesday needs to be just that – a national one. We need to see, in towns and cities all over the country, solidarity action with the Vestas workers.”
People marched out of the square and, instead of taking the usual route of previous demonstrations, they marched onto the dual carriageway and took over a lane, chanting, “What do we want? Nationalisation! When do we want it? Now!” Passing cars honked their horns in support.
[Listen to an account of the August 8 march by a Vestas worker at Ventnor Blog HERE or below]
Justin, a Vestas worker, said, “The government has to start listening. There's been plenty of talk but what we need now is action.”
As the march came towards the industrial estate where the Vestas factory sits, workers led the demonstrators round the back of the Vestas factory and onto the site. People marched to the front of the factory, which had been out of bounds because of a fence, and held a temporary sit-in in front of the doors. They demanded that the manager come out and address the workers.
There is a meeting for all workers on the Isle of Wight tomorrow evening to discuss the next stages of the campaign and to build for the national day of action on Wednesday.
Tears and cheers for Vestas heroes
By Paul Haste
August 7, 2009 -- Morning Star -- Vestas workers ended their 18-day occupation of Britain’s last remaining wind turbine factory on August 6, declaring their fight to be “just the start” of a mass campaign for green jobs.
The last six workers to leave the occupied plant were given a heroes’ reception by the hundreds of local residents and supporters who gathered outside the factory near Newport on the Isle of Wight after the company’s private security force enforced a court ruling to end the protest.
One of the workers, Jamie Rigby, left the factory on his own terms, jumping 30 feet from a balcony draped with a banner declaring the workers’ defiant message to his bosses: “Vestas, this is only the start — you will lose.”
Another of the occupiers, Ian Terry, abseiled down the factory wall and insisted that the workers’ fight against the company closing down the plant and tearing up the livelihoods of 625 people was “worth all of the sacrifices”. “I would definitely do it all again. If anyone’s got a spare factory going, let me know because I’ll come and occupy it”, he said.
But as the occupation at Newport came to an end, protesters at a roof top demonstration at a second Vestas site in nearby Cowes vowed to “continue for as long as the workers want us to”.
The fight against Vestas began July 20 when the multinational wind turbine firm — despite increasing its profits by 70 per cent in just the first three months of this year and awarding 13 of its directors a huge £9 million in bonuses — announced the mass sackings.
Vestas RMT union representatives Mike Godley and Sean McDonagh were joined by the union’s leaders Bob Crow and John Leach as they met Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change Joan Ruddock just before the court order against the occupation was awarded.
Godley related that Ruddock had said that she was fully supportive that those who took part in the occupation should not lose their redundancy pay as the company had threatened. “She said that no workers should be discriminated against for standing up for their jobs”, Mr Godley said. “And she also said: ‘Vestas might have abandoned the island, but the government won’t’”, he added.
RMT revealed that ministers had earlier tried to offer Vestas cash to refit the factory and had even raised the possibility of a government “takeover” but that the company had refused. Godley suggested that the refusal meant that Vestas “intends to keep hold of the factory to start up production again when they consider it will be profitable”.
But RMT general secretary Crow stressed that, if that was the case, then there should be an immediate investigation into the company’s activities. “It appears from the meeting with the minister that Vestas kicked the legs from under a perfewctly viable rescue deal which could have saved the factory”, he said.
Crow praised the workers for their stand, asserting that “everyone involved in the Vestas occupation can hold their heads up high and be proud of the brave fight they have put up for green jobs. They have turned a local fight over a factory closure on the Isle of Wight into a global battle for the future of manufacturing in the renewable energy sector and that is an extraordinary achievement.”
Ventnor Blog's video compilation of the occupation's end
August 7, 2009 -- Ventnor Blog -- Have fun (click on each picture to watch the video).
Thank you for the support you have given to the campaign to save the jobs at Vestas, Isle of Wight, making wind turbine blades. There is still a lot you can do!
Although the occupation ended on Friday 7th August, that was far from being the end of the campaign. The Vestas workers now intend to picket the plant at Newport, Isle of Wight, to prevent Vestas from taking back complete control of it, and the machinery and the turbine blades that are still inside.
The Vestas workers and their supporters are stepping up their campaign to put pressure on the Government to intervene to save these green jobs. This coming Wednesday 12 August has been declared a national day of solidarity with Vestas workers.
Supporters around the country are organising their own rallies and meetings, and, ideally, attempting to get workers to stop work for a time, on that day. You can keep up to date with what is planned on the Save Vestas blog http://savevestas.wordpress.com/travel-noticeboard/. If you would like help organising or advertising a protest, please let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a sheet of tips on how to organise protests.
Attached with this email there is also a general leaflet that you could give out to the public.
At the East Cowes Vestas factory a group of supporters are staging a rooftop protest. You can keep up to date with that on our blog. They are in touch with Vestas workers to discuss how they can coordinate their activities.
It is possible to win this campaign, through keeping up the momentum and contacts made already during the occupation. There are suggestions for ways you can help below. The main focus will be to build and maintain the picket, but meetings and fundraising can help to do that, through encouraging people to visit or paying for transport to the Isle of Wight and for the expenses of those supporters who are staying on the Island to help maintain the picket.
Please circulate this message to anyone that you think might be interested. Thank you.
Save Vestas campaign
Ways you can help
· Send messages of support to email@example.com.
· Send a donation from your trade union or other organisation, or a personal donation: cheques payable to ‘Ryde and East Wight Trades Union Council’ can be sent to Ryde and East Wight TUC, 22 Church Lane, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 2NB or donate via the PayPal button at http://savevestas.wordpress.com.
· Contact energy minister Ed Miliband. Email MILIBANDE@parliament.uk. His phone number in his Doncaster constituency is 01302 875 462, and at Westminster, 020 7219 4778. Flood him with calls for the Government to take over the Vestas factory and keep it producing, under new management.
· Organise a visible demonstration of solidarity. Take a photo with a placard that reads “Save Vestas” and email the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
· Sign the petitions http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveVestas/ on the No.10 site and http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/press_for_change/vestas_petition_20414.html on the FoE website.· Email Vestas email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
About 150 Vestas workers and supporters marched through Ryde, Isle of Wight, on 15 August 2009.
The demonstration was part of a plan to take the campaign to all parts of the Isle of Wight. Most protest has until recently been concentrated in Newport, the county town of the island and the site of the main Vestas wind turbine blade factory.
Next Saturday, 22nd, there will be a demonstration in Sandown.
A Vestas workers’ Ryde support group, made up of local people, is now being established: for more details, email email@example.com.
Chairing the rally at the start of the demonstration, Mike Godley, one of the workers who occupied the Newport factory from 20 July until evicted on 7 August, read out web postings which attacked the campaign for the Government to nationalise the wind-turbine blade factory and save the jobs as something created or manipulated by socialist and other activists who have come to the Isle of Wight from the mainland.
To great applause, he refuted the attacks, saying that the socialists and environmental activists who have come to the island, many camping on a roundabout outside the factory, have mde a valuable and welcome contribution to a struggle which continues to be the Vestas workers’ own.
On Friday 14 August, Vestas paid outstanding wages and redundancy money into the bank accounts of workers made redundant. The redundancy date was originally set for 31 July, then, as a result of the occupation, put back to 12 August.
Many workers remain determined to fight on. On our best information, Vestas bosses plan to start sending “clean-up” teams into the Newport and East Cowes factories on 17 August. Can they do that without protest?
Even if they can get the “clean-up” teams, can they get out the yet-to-be-finished blades and the equipment which they want to remove from the factories? They cannot come out by road, but have to go onto barges (in Newport, over a public cycle path) at high tide.
The workers’ pickets at the factory gates must and will continue.
Meanwhile, the ripples of solidarity with the Vestas workers spread even further. New support groups are being set up even now. The next national day of action on 9 September, held at a time when labour movement is reviving after the summer holidays, can be bigger than the one on 12 August.
The Guardian wrote a report about the closure of Vestas, date Wednesday 12 August. WCA and some of the Vestas workers sent a reply (not published), which we publish below. The original Guardian report is underneath.
Further to your report (“Vestas factory closes despite campaign”), and in spite of the redundancies announced at Vestas, Isle of Wight yesterday, the campaign to save the only major wind turbine blade manufacturer in the UK is not something in the past but remains an urgent cause for unions and green activists, and for many of the Vestas workers (both current and recently sacked or laid off).
Why? Because the fundamental issues have not changed: the decision to stop making wind turbine blades on the Isle of Wight does undermine the government’s promise of a “green revolution” that would usher in significantly more renewable energy production and more green jobs.
Moreover, issues that urgently need addressing have emerged during the campaign, not least that Vestas probably only intend to mothball the plant and would recommence production if the price were right, either in government subsidies, or because the market picked up.
One of the questions that we all – campaigners, both environmental and trade union, and all working people – need to examine is whether we can let job creation, and the transition to renewable energy production that we need, rest on the short-term business decisions of private companies whose guiding principle is their bottom line. We argue that we cannot. We need to act as a public collectively, in our collective interest, including, if necessary, taking over plants and industries that cannot or will not deliver the change we need.
The government also needs to recognise that when it pins its hopes on partnership with private companies, it is often getting into bed with employers who treat their workforce with contempt. Vestas’ proposal to look again at the cases of the ‘Vestas Eleven’, who occupied the plant and who they sacked, has little to do with Vestas’ fair-mindedness and much to do with the fact that the workers’ picket of the factory is continuing and Vestas would like it to end.
Chris Ash, Andy Mackenzie, Luke Paxton, Mark Smith, Mark Stringer, Tracey Yeates – Vestas workers
Edward Maltby - Workers’ Climate Action
Vestas factory closes despite campaign
• Windfarm maker ends Isle of Wight plant production
• Site had been occupied by angry workers for 18 days
by Paul Lewis and Gwladys Fouché in Aarhus
Wednesday 12 August 2009 19.02 BST
The Danish windfarm company Vestas told more than 400 UK employees today that they had been made redundant, marking the official closure of its Isle of Wight factory that had been occupied for 18 days by angry workers.
The campaign to save the only major wind turbine blade manufacturer in the UK became a cause celebre for unions and green activists, who argued the move undermined the government’s promise of a “green revolution” that would result in the installation of 10,000 wind turbines by 2020 and create thousands of jobs.
Describing the closure of the factory as an “absolutely necessary commercial decision”, Vestas repeated its complaint about the slow pace of growth in the onshore wind turbine market in the UK.
The company, which is moving the
production of wind turbine blades to the US, had planned to convert the
Isle of Wight factory to make blades more suitable for the UK market.
The decision was reversed in April, in part because of what the company
said was the UK’s “local planning process for onshore wind power
About 11 workers at the Newport plant began occupying an office building on the site on 20 July. The sit-in came to an end last week after a court order authorised bailiffs to remove the workers.
However, the dispute delayed the company’s plans and meant the consultation process which should have permitted the company to close the factory gates at the end of last month was not completed until yesterday, when Vestas said it had made 425 workers redundant, including a small number based in Southampton.
The company said 40 employees had been found new jobs on a research and development facility on the island, which recently received a government grant, and a further 57 are being kept on to help close the site, a process a spokesman said would probably take “months, not weeks”.
Ditlev Engel, the CEO of Vestas, told
the Guardian the company could review its decision to strip the 11
workers identified as participating in the sit-in of their redundancy
benefits. “The last thing we wanted was to have this confrontation,” he
said. “Coming back to the 11 people, we will have to revisit, to look
Asked whether it meant Vestas would change its decision to dismiss the men and remove their redundancy package, Engel said, “I am not ruling anything out”.
Engel urged a review in the country’s planning laws, which he said were hampering the development of wind energy. “In the UK, there is a clear division between what the government would like to see happening and what certain local politicians want to see happening, or rather not want to see happening … there is not necessarily the same ambition levels,” he said, adding the government needed to invest in the electricity transmission grid to make it more friendly to wind energy.
Sean McDonagh, 32, a Vestas worker maintained the campaign has succeeded in holding the government to account on its spending priorities. “We, the taxpayer, have had to bail out the banks – an industry that’s not working,” he said. “The renewable sector is something that has got to work.”
August 30, 2009 -- In reply to Gregor Gall (M Star August 20). Why write a post-mortem of a dispute that is not over? Former Vestas workers and their supporters are picketing the factory, trying to persuade the clean-up teams to join RMT and join our campaign. We are trying to stop the company removing blades and valuable machinery. Gregor should ask readers to come and help us, not tell us why we have failed!
He has the recipe for successful class struggle back to front. He says that before you fight, you should have a unionised workforce with strong national and international links.
The Vestas workforce was largely un-unionised, as are vast swathes of British workers. How can we unionise them? Through struggle. Through the struggle at Vestas, many of the workers have come to value unions and joined one.
The support from other workers has been inspiring and highlights the need to change the anti-union laws that prevent workers from going further and taking solidarity action.
Vestas workers made contact with their counterparts in other countries as a result of their struggle, not the other way around.
Companies such as Vestas try to make workers feel like individuals who can only get on by doing what the company wants. We can only get over this by struggling to change it.
The urgency of the situation in many workplaces where jobs are lost means that workers need to act, improvise and learn through struggle immediately - we cannot wait until all our organisation is in place before we strike, because it will be too late.
The lessons we learn in one dispute we can teach quickly to others. Visteon workers advised and supported Vestas workers in the lead-up to the Vestas occupation.
Save Vestas blog
Protesters have blockaded the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight in a bid to prevent blades being taken away from the site.
A group of demonstrators blocked the entrance to the Newport plant and erected a huge tripod at the entrance to prevent blades from leaving the factory.
The Vestas dispute came to the attention of the public in July when workers who had been made redundant decided to take action and occupy the factory. Since then, they have ensured that a constant blockade has been in place to stop the turbines from leaving the factory in order to prevent its closure.
"We see it as our duty to stop our blades from leaving as part of the campaign to nationalise the factory," one of the protesters said.
"Vestas have told us that there is no demand for our products but are still unwilling to sell the site to other interested parties.
"We are calling on the government to invest in green jobs on the Isle of Wight and for Vestas to reinstate the 11 sacked workers who occupied the factory."
The action comes a week before a protest and lobby - backed by the RMT and PCS unions - which will be urging Environment Minister Ed Miliband to commit to creating more green jobs.
Battersea and Wandsworth trades councilspokeswoman Nadine Houghton said: "This isn't just about one factory, this is about the future of the planet - which is in grave danger if action on a mass scale isn't taken to tackle climate change."
We are writing to tell you about two aspects of the campaign:
1) The workers and supporters are maintaining a blockade of the factory. The main leverage they have over politicians and the Vestas company is to prevent Vestas removing the remaining blades and valuable equipment at will.
In a press release this morning, the workers explained:
“We, the workers, see it as our duty to stop our blades from leaving, as part of the campaign to nationalise the factory. Vestas have told us that there is no demand for our products but are still unwilling to sell the site to other interested parties. It is clear the government must act on such an important issue as renewable energy production. They should not let our future be dictated solely by profit.
“We are calling on the government to invest in green jobs on the Isle of Wight, and for Vestas to reinstate the eleven sacked workers who occupied the factory.”
The workers urgently need help with the blockade, as the company is likely to try and remove the blades and equipment in the coming days. If you are able to go to the Isle of Wight and join the blockade, mobilise others to go, or raise funds to support those who are maintaining the blockade, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find advice for getting to the Isle of Wight and a map showing the location of the Vestas factory on the blog: http://savevestas.wordpress.com/travel-noticeboard/.
If you would like to make a donation, the details have now changed; please send cheques payable to “RMT IOW 2 VESTAS HARDSHIP & DEFENCE FUND” to Keith Murphy, 57 Well Street, Ryde, IOW PO33 2RY, or you can continue to donate by PayPal online at the blog.
2) Thursday 17th September will be the second national day of action around the Vestas campaign. A number of events are planned around the country, many of them advertised on the blog. If you know of any more or would like advice on planning an event, please contact email@example.com.
Thank you for your support so far. The campaign for green jobs on the Isle of Wight and around the UK is continuing, and needs your continued support.
Save Vestas campaign
Whose Factory? Our Factory! Whose Blades? Our Blades!
September 13, 2009 -- At the end of August Vestas rapidly started shipping out a secret stockpile of 500 wind turbine blades from the warehouse in Southampton to the USA. Three boats carrying more than half these blades have left…
Preventing the movement of the remainder of these blades and of the machinery is our best leverage in winning our demands from the government and Vestas management:
The occupying workers who were sacked must be reinstated with full redundancy pay, and the government must act to take wind energy production under public owenership.
We believe that wind energy belongs to the people, and that it is workers who have built this factory and made these blades. It is our side that have demonstrated the determination to guarantee the future of renewable energy and the creation of socially useful jobs for all. It is long overdue to take back the power from the likes of Vestas and the politicians who work to defend their profits.
Join the Newport blockade
Vestas are now trying to clear out and remove the remaining blades in Newport so that they can shut down the factory that workers and activists have been fighting to reopen.
Since the occupation of the building was evicted we have been picketing the Newport site 24 hours. We believe this blockade has so far forced Vestas to delay their plans. On Wednesday 10th September we set up a scaffold-pole tripod, a major obstacle, but it will be a show of strength from the people of the island that can turn the tide.
We will have two hours notice of the Blade Runner barges leaving Southampton, giving everyone on the island time to get down and stop the blades from going.
Like the well-established Magic Roundabout solidarity camp, the new Marine Gate camp is an inspiring place to be: There is plenty of space to camp with a great view of the river and sunrises.
On Monday we will be getting together to prepare for the blockade and for the national day of action on Thursday 17th September. Hannah, a Climate Camp action-support trainer, originally from Newport, is coming to run an afternoon of skill-sharing and planning. We’ll do games and exercises, scout around and exchange information and ideas. We can think through and practise how we can respond to the eventuality of Vestas trying to push on to get the blades out. And then we’ll have dinner together by the fireside.
From the beginning the occupying workers have been clear that this was not only a fight for their jobs, but it was part of a wider struggle for the right to meaningful and socially useful work for all. This campaign has received support across the island, across the trade union movement, and among all those who believe that now is the time to defend ourselves and our planet with our deeds. We must act now to reopen the wind turbine factory.
Monday 14th September, 1pm – 6pm (then dinner).
Meet at the Marine Gate, on the Newport-Cowes cycle path.
Call Robin on 07974 331 053
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org