Archive for the ‘Vestas Dispute’ Category

Vestas workers get the last laugh a year later

August 5, 2010

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

Vestas Workers Fight On

October 4, 2009

Vestas ProtestOn 22 September, dozens of police from Southampton and Portsmouth descended on the protest camp outside the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight (IOW). They removed tents, personal and political material and served ‘exclusion notices’ to several Vestas workers who were told to stay away from the Vestas factory for the next three months. This assault on the right to peaceful protest was to ensure Vestas were able to remove blades from the factory and secure future access to the plant. The police presence also included two police launches and a rib, a helicopter and police plane! Despite the heavy police presence workers were not intimidated and were able to protest at the company/police action and speak to the press about the ongoing campaign. “Even some of the police spoke to us and gave their support to the fight for jobs and the environment,” explained Mark Smith, a Vestas worker. “The campaign will continue, we will continue to fight for our reinstatement and our redundancy money and for the nationalisation of Vestas. We will also challenge the council on its strategy to reduce the carbon footprint on the IOW and their rejection of wind turbine technology. “There will be a permanent presence at the factory to highlight the campaign and for people to visit. We are also discussing the idea of standing an election candidate on the IOW to take up these issues. “This is something we have raised more and more at our meetings across the country and was raised at the demonstration at Labour Party conference on Sunday. “We can see how this will develop further, not just about Vestas, it’s just one part of it. We are continuing to fight our tribunals with the support of our trade union, the RMT. “There are other strikes taking place on the IOW and we are giving our support. “We will be holding a meeting to discuss how this fight can help build wider support for the trade unions on the IOW and how our struggle can be built on.”

Nationalise to save jobs and the environment!

July 31, 2009

Vestas wind turbine plant workers occupy to protest against redundancies, photo RMT television The 25 Vestas workers occupying the wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight have created an international furore over jobs and the future of the environment. They have huge support from their work colleagues, families and workers on the Isle of Wight and beyond.

Mass rallies every night have sustained morale, with over 500 at a demo on the evening of 24 July. Decisively, the support of local transport and offshore union RMT officers and the commitment of the RMT to provide legal support has given the Vestas workers a huge boost. Three times Vestas management have tried to intimidate workers with threats of forcible eviction and the removal of redundancy payments if they don’t leave.

Each time the occupation has stood firm and the decision to stay has been applauded by hundreds attending the evening rallies. On 23 July the company served a court injunction on the occupiers to appear in court on 29 July. This coincided with the visit of RMT general secretary Bob Crow who pledged the full support of the union to assist their legal representation.

He said to warm applause: “These people just can’t come along and use us like pieces of lemon – squeeze the juice out of us when they want us to work for them and then toss us to one side when they don’t. This government tells us they are a green government… If you’ve got a bowler hat and you’re a banker you get their support. If you build wind turbines you should get the same support.”

Large numbers of Vestas workers – previously without union representation at the plant – have now joined the RMT. They have established a strike committee and elected reps. “Should we stay or should we go?”, was the question raised by Steve, one of the workers, at the mass rally in response to Vestas chairman Peter Kruse saying that Vestas would not change their minds and workers should go home.

The unanimous response was: “We are staying!”. This was echoed by Mark Stringer, one of the original occupiers who made an emotional speech to the demo: “I got involved because there is little chance of another job on the Isle of Wight and I have a family to support. We are here to stay.” Solidarity messages and cash have poured in. Visits from Unite Linamar convenor Rob Williams and Socialist Party councillor Rob Windsor, as well as Visteon workers and Unite activist Jerry Hicks, have helped build the confidence of the Vestas workers. 

 PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh has issued a statement on behalf of the PCS national executive: “The government has just announced plans to create 400,000 green jobs over the next five years and a huge expansion of renewable energy – yet it seems unwilling to step in to save 600 jobs at Vestas… We call on the government to intervene to save the plant in the interests of the Vestas workers, the regional economy on the Isle of Wight, the future of the renewables industry in the UK and to show that it is serious about meeting the UK’s climate change commitments.” The best solution to the current crisis at Vestas is nationalisation. From the start this has been a clear demand of the occupiers and the Vestas workers. This fight has enormous support, the occupiers are determined, as are the Vestas workers outside. A victory for the Vestas workers would be a victory for all workers facing the bosses’ knife!

Vestas: Support the occupation

July 22, 2009

Faced with the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight, the workers have decided to occupy the factory immediately and step up the fight to save the factory and their jobs. This follows threats and intimidations from management.

The key organisers called a meeting on the factory floor and unanimously decided to return to the plant at 7pm on 20 July to begin the occupation.

20 workers occupied the management offices and held out throughout the night waiting for reinforcements from other shifts. Spirits are high and the local police, who initially appeared hostile, backed away.

As soon as the workers occupied, calls to trade unionists across the region were answered. Members of the transport union RMT immediately left Portsmouth, crossing the Solent to the factory in solidarity.

Please send your messages of solidarity and support to: savevestas@googlemail.com

Vestas Workers: Organising Their Fight Back

July 19, 2009

At the end of this week the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight, the only wind turbine factory in the UK, is scheduled to close, taking over 600 jobs with it – but the workers of Vestas are organising their fight back. Following the open meetings and the first tentative campaign steps reported in this paper two weeks ago events have moved fast.

On the 13th members from branches in Portsmouth and Southampton joined local activists and Vestas workers in Newport in the first public sign of action since the previous weeks open meeting. Public support is overwhelmingly in support for the workers and people qued in the pouring rain to sign petitions and write messages of support.

While this was taking place key workers were organising on the factory floor and the following week a workers campaign committee was formed to discuss demands and organise the internal fight back. Simultaneously some key organisers have joined a Unite and are now working to unionise the workforce.

Shamefully despite this progress local politicians continue to turn their backs on the workers. The Island’s Tory MP Andrew Turner has already washed his hands of the issue and now he is joined by Portsmouth North MP, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, who states that her new senior position in the treasury means she will not support the workers. What hope is there for a labour government if one of their senior treasury ministers supports job losses in the fledging green sector?

In spite of this the workers have continued to organise themselves and are confident of taking action to save their jobs before the factory is shut. Messages of support have rained in from across the county and members of Unite, the RMT, Unison, and the CWU have each shown their support for the workers struggle.

By the time this is in print action may have been taken or may be poised to start – the struggle has not been easy. Numerous external groups have descended on the campaign in an attempt to push their own agenda. Some efforts, while well intentioned, have served only to delay or confuse the issue. For many groups there will be harsh lessons to learn. Yet despite all this the workers of Vestas, who take courage from the victories of Visteon and Lindsey, continue to organise and we should all take inspiration from them.

 The Socialist Party stands shoulder to shoulder with the workers of Vestas in their struggle; we support their demands and call for:

 • Immediate union recognition • No to job cuts – Keep the factory open • Nationalise the factory under workers control – power to the shop floor • Make the plant a building block for a new publicly owned green sector to provide more jobs

Send your messages of solidarity and support to: savevestas@googlemail.com

A Call To The Workers of Vestas: Unite To Save Your Jobs

July 4, 2009

Ben Norman – Portsmouth Branch

Over 600 workers at the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight are on the brink of losing their jobs after the company announced they intend to move production of wind turbine blades to America. The workers have been offered an insulting redundancy package of less then £1000 and at a public meeting this week the call for action was raised.

The meeting, called by the Isle of Wight trades council and a local campaign group called ‘Workers Climate Action’, was attended by around 150 people, made up of Vestas workers and local residents.

The ideas raised by the seven speakers on the podium, none of who it must be said were workers, varied enormously. While members of ‘Workers Climate Action’ called for immediate direct action and factory occupation while other speakers, from the trade council, simply urged workers to join their local union.

These demands are simply not enough, especially as the factory bosses do not recognise the trade unions. Members of the Socialist Party raised the need for a clear programme of demands to accompany coordinated action and urged both the meeting organisers and the workers to learn the lessons of Lindsey, Enfield, Belfast and Swansea.

The struggle at Vestas is not unique on the Isle of Wight; there has been a 15,000 increase in the number of people forced to sign on to unemployment benefit since last year. Currently the island is the lowest wage economy in the UK and a closure of a factory of this size would be nothing short of a disaster for the entire Island.

It is clear that in this hour of need the workers of the island will not find allies in the bosses or even in their elected MPs. Tory MP Andrew Turner effectively turned his back on the workers by saying: “my job is not to solve this problem!” The representative from SEEDA, the regional development agency, said that although they have a budget in excess of £169 million there was no will to use it to save Vestas jobs. One member of the Trade Council even announced that they had written to Peter Mandelson to petition him to save the plant. We say that the answer will not be found with Lord Mandelson or an unelected government QANGO; the answer can only be found in the hands of the Vestas workers themselves!

We call in the Vestas workers to take confidence from the strike action at Lindsey where, through well coordinated workers action, a stunning victory has been won and jobs have been saved. We in the Socialist Party pledge our support to and call for clear demands for the workers of Vestas, including:

 

  • The Formation of an Action Committee to take the campaign forward
  • Full Union Recognition
  • No to Job Cuts
  • Re-Investment in the factory – Keep Production Going
  • Take the factory into public ownership under workers control