Vestas workers get the last laugh a year later

This report was written by Louise Nousratpour and was published in The Morning Star on Sunday 25 July 2010

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Workers who occupied a wind turbine factory which closed with the loss of hundreds of jobs are to open their own business just yards from the site of their former employers.

More than 400 workers on the Isle of Wight lost their jobs when Vestas closed its doors a year ago, sparking an 18-day sit-in at the factory in Newport.

Former Vestas worker Sean McDonagh, who helped organise the protest, has launched the Sureblades company, which will start producing wind turbine blades in September.

Mr McDonagh said on Sunday that he hoped to employ more than 40 ex-Vestas workers within two years and boasted that Sureblades already had a “significant order book.”

He said: “It has been hard work but I always knew it was the right thing to do because it was crazy to lose jobs in the renewable energy industry.”

Mr McDonagh added that unemployment on the Isle of Wight was over 3,500 but there are fewer than 200 job vacancies on the island.

Workers in the new company are members of the RMT union, which has helped with the venture.

The union’s general secretary Bob Crow hailed the initiative, which he said had blown apart the “bogus grounds” put forward by the company at the time of closure that there was no market for British-manufactured turbine blades.

“They have also shown that it is far too easy for companies in the UK to soak up government grants and then just cut and run when it suits them without any meaningful consultation, never mind a ballot of the workforce,” he said.

“The real credit lies with the determination and solidarity of the workers who refused to accept that they were beaten. They are an inspiration.”

With the assistance of RMT officials, Mr McDonagh and his colleagues set up meetings with government officials and development agencies to put together the Sureblades business plan in tandem with local businessman Keith Hounsell.

Micro-turbine blades will be built at the new factory on the same industrial estate as the former Vestas site, with the first order going to a wind energy firm in Ireland

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