Vestas workers fight for jobs and the planet

July 24, 2009 at 9:37 am Leave a comment


Workers at Britain’s only wind turbine factory, located on the Isle of Wright, launched an indefinite occupation on July 20 to protest its pending closure and the loss of 600 green jobs.

Danish company Vestas Windsystems owns the factory. The company announced the factory closure despite posting a 70% rise in profits for the first quarter of 2009.

About 30 workers are taking part in the occupation. They are demanding the British government nationalise the wind turbine plant. A statement on the factory occupation website points out that “the [British] government has just announced a major expansion of renewable energy including wind power.”

At a time when climate change threatens to make the planet uninhabitable, the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory “makes no sense from a green or a labour perspective”, the workers said.

The workers call “on Vestas to keep the factories open, saving jobs and offering those who want to leave a better redundancy deal.” If Vestas refuses then they call “on the government to intervene to save jobs at Vestas — through nationalisation if that is what it takes — to show that it is serious about saving the planet.”

One of the occupying workers explained the workers decision to the British Socialist Worker. “We’ve occupied our factory to save our jobs — and to save the planet. Six hundred people work here. That many jobs going will have a devastating effect.

“But there’s even more to it than that. We need renewable energy if we’re going to stop global warming. When the government says it wants green energy and green jobs, it’s criminal that it’s closing Vestas.
“I’ve worked here for a year and a half but some people have worked here for eight or nine years. We had a meeting on Monday where we talked about what to do.

“We decided we were going to go for it. People thought, ‘It’s now or never’. We went in as two teams, from both sides of the factory. All of the doors were locked — apart from the front door!”

In response, Vestas management built a steel fence around the plant. They threatened the workers that they would not allow food into the factory until they ended the occupation. Riot police arrested supporters who tried to smuggle food inside. However, by July 23 Vestas backed down and food deliveries to the plant have resumed.

Vestas has served the occupying workers with papers charging them with aggravated trespass. The company has also said the workers have been officially fired and will not be paid any redundancy owing to them.

As the occupation entered its fourth night support for the workers fight to save jobs and the planet had grown. The Green Party, Socialist Resistance, the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party and other left-wing groups have endorsed the workers demands.

The workers have also received support from parts of the trade union movement for their militant action. The July 23 Morning Star said eight unions involved in the Trade Union Coordinating Group have signalled their full support and solidarity for the Vestas workers.

Pressure is building on the British government to respond to the workers demands. In an opinion piece in the July 23 British Guardian climate change secretary Ed Miliband said, “there must be a strategy for the Isle of Wight to do all we can to help and there is. Not just support for the workers who are losing their jobs, but a strategy to work with Vestas.”

However, he has refused to endorse the one “strategy” — nationalisation — that might hurt the profits of a single greedy company but will save the wind turbine plant from closure.

Supporters on the picket line cheer-on the Vestas workers

Supporters on the picket line cheer-on the Vestas workers


Entry filed under: Britian, Climate protest, Green jobs, Nationalisation, renewables, Vestas occupation, workers rights.

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