It was a year ago today that Vestas got the remaining blades out of their factory at Newport, Isle of Wight. At the time and in my thinking now this is “Blades Day“. A number of ex-Vestas workers and their supporters gathered on the path beside the Medina and watched as a few blades left, an event only made possible by the presence of large numbers of police.
The weather was beautiful; the calm beside the river was only enhanced by the hum of the giant cranes doing their dirty work. The peace was only interrupted by the sound of police motor launches buzzing up and down the river taking pictures of protestors on the shore. It struck me as I watched them then that the people on those launches holding the cameras had probably never been to the Isle of Wight and would probably never come back. They didn’t know who we were and they didn’t care. Their job was only to take pictures of “potential trouble-makers”.
It was sad watching the blades being taken out. But the protest, the fact that we didn’t want the blades to leave, was not intended as an act of sabotage. It was a protest about the terms under which renewable energy is developed. Should the switch to renewables depend simply on how profitable the business is? In other words, should it simply be left to the market to develop the energy we need? Should renewables companies be seen as unambiguously “ethical”? Or should we be able to demand of them that they treat their workers with respect, not laying them off at will, as Vestas does, as it chases government subsidies around the world?
Today the economic recession and the anxieties that most people have about cuts in public services, benefits, job losses, etc., are looming larger in their thoughts than environmental concerns. That’s a shame, but it only goes to show that while our economic system is as it is, we cannot give proper attention to vital issues like what sort of environment do we live in and are we creating.
Today the world’s biggest wind farm opens off Thanet. It’s a beautiful sight! But it’s delivered by companies in private hands that do not care about their workforces except in as far as they can exploit them for profits. An apt way to mark the first anniverary of Blades Day would be to renew our struggle for a worker-led just transition to renewables.
P.S. Wouldn’t you know it? I’ve looked at my diary again and discovered that the anniversary was yesterday. Well, they got blades out on both 22nd and 23rd September, I think. I’m not one to airbrush history, so I thought I’d ‘fess up! The issues remain the same.