Latest from the Vestas blockade
Vestas workers and supporters continue to blockade Britain’s only wind-turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight. They have been doing since the workers’ 18 day occupation ended last month. Management, security and the police are stepping up their efforts to harass and undermine the workers and activists who are blocking the path between the plant and the jetty onto the river Medina. There is still millions of pounds worth of equipment and blades inside the factory which can only be transported out by barge. This represents the last real industrial leverage in the struggle, the last opportunity to really hurt Vestas in an attempt to force them, or the government to negotiate. This is a statement issued earlier this week;
“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. There was a massive effort to organise people to go down during, and immediately after the Climate Camp and the activists recruited there have been absolutely invaluable in terms of the skills and energy they have brought down. Through the fundraising efforts of the South London Vestas support group that was set up we are now able to fund transport down to the Isle of Wight.
A national day of action has been called on the 17th of September. This can be an opportunity to build on the local support groups that have been set up and set up new ones.
Last month workers at Vestas blades occupied the company’s main factory on the Isle of Wight to prevent its closure. Vestas is currently the only manufacturer of wind turbine blades in the country. Not many more examples will sum up the madness of the bosses’ response to the crisis like this one – closing a factory that produces something so socially useful.
The factory had previously been a place where anyone trying to set up a trade union was victimised and sacked, there was no worker organisation. Up to a couple of months ago, the closure, the job losses [in one of the worst areas of unemployment in Britain] and the pitiful redundancy payments had been accepted as inevitable.
However, in early June, a handful of Workers’ Climate Action activists, having heard about the closure went down to the island, started talking to workers as they changed shift, got in contact with the local TUC, brought in different left groups, got people in touch with workers from the Visteon car part factory occupation, held meetings and soon a group of workers’ emerged with the confidence and organisation to pull off an occupation of management offices that lasted for 18 days.
We should see this step taken by a group of people with no real history of militancy as incredibly inspiring. They have stormed their own workplace, risked losing their redundancy money, and all in the knowledge of how putting their heads above the parapet could affect their chances of work elsewhere. What is more, they have grown politically, seeing this as a fight against every job loss, every cut and for the planet.
This idea that people should be at the centre of their own liberation – self emancipation, and that by doing this, by challenging the ideas of society and who is meant to run it, workers in struggle can look to reshape society sums up pretty much what something like Workers’ Climate Action is about. They have raised the slogan loud and clear – ‘Who’s factory? Our factory!’
They have welcomed support from those who have helped build the campaign – WCA activists, (various campers, socialists and anarchists), the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, the Socialist Workers’ Party, local campaigners, trade unionists and many others. Many of the Vestas workers have joined the Rail Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union, who came in to offer support when the previous union, Unite, had done basically nothing to support them.
However the most militant workers have maintained that they are not prepared to see political leadership of the struggle fall into the hands of any other group. Political support and experience has been very important but they are adamant, and rightly so, that the workers’ themselves must be central to how it is run.
The Climate Camp June national gathering set up a working group to organise solidarity. This has led to a number of campers coming down to the island and using their organisational, practical and campaigning skills to massively contribute to the campaign.
One of the first things that came out of the setting up of the working group was that an affinity group of Climate Camp activists occupied the roof of the smaller Vestas factory in show of solidarity. This was an immensely valuable piece of publicity for the campaign and was warmly appreciated. There have been various other smaller publicity stunts across the country that have all helped the campaign. The initial attempt by the company to starve the workers out was broken by a food rush that forced Vestas to provide daily [if inadequate] meals. Many of the workers’ and their supporters are now keen to get further training in direct action. Some have come to the camp. They’ve seen these examples, and of course have gained their own experiences – rushes, picketing, and the occupation itself. People from Action Support are heading down to hold training. The value of this stuff has already been demonstrated, if you are able to help in any way let us know.
- Visit the Save Vestas Blog
- Call Robin on 07974331053, Ed on 0775763750 or Bob on 07843945005 for information on travelling down (paid for if necessary)
- Email workersclimateaction[@]gmail.com to get on vestas solidarity working group list
- 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