Socialist Worker

Vestas: the fight for jobs goes on

by Siân Ruddick
Published Tue 11 Aug 2009
Issue No. 2164

The sense of struggle is palpable on the Isle of Wight, and workers at the Vestas wind turbine factory are taking a clear lead in order to take their campaign for jobs to victory.

It is now vital that workers, trade unionists and activists join together across the country to put the demand for nationalisation of the Vestas plant, and serious solidarity with the workers, at the top of their agendas.

The workers, who occupied their factory for over two weeks, were driven out by bailiffs armed with an eviction order on Friday of last week.

As they left, the occupiers were met with huge cheers from the crowd that had assembled outside the plant to keep a watchful eye on the police and bailiffs.

None of the workers were arrested as they left the building.

A rally at the factory gates that evening set the tone for the next part of the struggle.

Justin Moody, one of the occupiers, told the crowd, “We’ve still got a lot to do. We’ve got to continue our work and put pressure on the government. Power to the people and all that!”

Mark Smith, another of the occupying workers, said, “We need to stop any work or shipping out of here.

“We need to keep the pressure on. We need more Vestas workers and islanders up here, we’re going to get people together. We have to now we’re out.”

The following day saw a noisy and militant demonstration in the centre of Newport march to the factory.

The protest took a surprise route down the dual carriageway.

Led by Vestas workers chanting, “Whose jobs? Our jobs!” the mood and energy on the demonstration showed their determination to win.

The march got through security at the back of the Vestas plant and looped round the front of the factory. This was a huge embarrassment for the bosses.

Managing director Paddy Weir was inside the building and chants of “Paddy, Paddy, Paddy, out, out, out” were taken up by the crowd. Workers demanded that he address the crowd and explain himself.

Weir failed to appear.

Solidarity

The government will doubtless hope that the end of the occupation will mean an end to the struggle.

But instead workers are planning to travel the country telling their story and drumming up solidarity and support for green jobs and nationalisation.

But this responsibility should not rest solely on those who have been involved in the struggle so far.

Workers and their supporters on the Isle of Wight need to mobilise as many people as possible for this next phase of the campaign.

Nationally, workers and activists are gearing up for a day of action on Wednesday. This will point to the failure of the government to make good on its promise of “green jobs.”

The PCS civil service union is organising a meeting in London at lunchtime on Wednesday, and the Campaign Against Climate Change has called a protest at 6.30pm outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Whitehall Place.

Actions are also planned across the country, in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kent, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Scunthorpe, Sheffield, and Swansea.

This will include leafleting, rallies, meetings and protests, as well as a picket of Gordon Brown’s constituency office in Cowdenbeath.

There needs to be a strong industrial element at the heart of this campaign.

That means not only raising funds and giving full support to Wednesday’s day of action, but also pulling together a plan to stop the wind turbine blades and other machinery being moved out of the Newport site.

In order for this to be successful it will need solidarity action from workers on barges, canals, ferries and lorries as well as a blockade of the site.

Action so far has forced the government to talk about what is happening at Vestas. The RMT union and two Vestas workers last week met with climate change minister Joan Ruddock. She claimed that the government had tried to buy Vestas but the company refused to sell.

She also claimed to be working on better redundancy terms for the workers.

While this may just be government hot air, it nevertheless shows that ministers do not want to be exposed as hypocrites over their talk of a green economy.

Now is the time for the campaign to go on the offensive, demanding compulsory purchase of Vestas by the government and a real commitment to jobs and to fighting climate change.

This demand, backed up by national action, can bring victory for the workers—and the environment.

l National day of action to support Vestas workers, 12 August 2009. The PCS union’s meeting starts at 12.30pm at the Civil Service Club, 15 Great Scotland Yard London SW1A 2HJ. Speakers include a Vestas worker, Jonathan Neale from the Campaign Against Climate Change and a representative from the PCS.


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Tue 11 Aug 2009, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2164
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