Posted by: Alex | 25 July 2009

Guardian carries double-page spread on Vestas occupation

The main text of the article can be found here

The Guardian‘s editorial team have followed the Independent on Thursday by giving the Vestas dispute the focused attention it deserves, with a two-page spread on pages 6-7. (Thankfully this time their coverage is not accompanied by an advert for Vestas.)

The piece is strong in a number of ways. First, it details the extent to which independently-minded workers had been victimised under Paddy Weir’s management through the eyes of those on the shop floor – “If you didn’t like it you knew where the door was” – Sean McDonagh – a callout to workplaces everywhere that cowardice and intimidation as management tactics can be made part of a bygone era, with only a little organisation and a lot of courage standing between workers and the respect they deserve.

Second, the accompanying article by Terry Macalister adequately describes the international aspect of struggles such as this. The strikes against Ssangyong Motor Company in Seoul and Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago are rightly linked to the UK labour movement and, in particular, the shining example set by the Vestas occupation of how even unorganised, union-free workplaces can rise to the challenge of standing firm against the ordered chaos of free-market logic in industry.

Third, the diversity of people picketing outside the factory is shown by five short quotes, from a relatively long-standing Vestas worker; the partner and daughter of one of the occupiers; an academic anthropologist; the secretary of Ryde TUC who initially aided Workers’ Climate Action in the campaign; and a Climate Camp activist. On Monday and Tuesday, as well as the permanent vanguard of left-wing activists, the congregation was predominantly composed of workers at the factory. Over the course of the week it has swelled, widening its demographic to include more green campaigners and press, interested parties from the Newport and Isle of Wight community, and the wider UK labour movement. Now the Save Vestas campaign is being heralded as a uniting force among activists – what needs to be done is to make it a similarly unifying influence for workers.

This is where a criticism can be levelled at the Guardian – but of a far more subtle kind than those of yesterday’s ridiculousness. The idea that the “alliance of labour and climate change activists” mentioned in the FAQ in the paper is new is not sufficiently critiqued. This is especially bewildering considering the main article mentions Workers’ Climate Action – a group which, in its very name, pays tribute to the class aspect of climate change. It is true that certain green groups and certain “red” groups hold irreconcilable differences of ideology, but this is due to a narrowness of opinion (and, phrased in as non-partisan a manner as possible, mistakes in reasoning) rather than a fission in the issues. Vestas workers put it perfectly in their slogan of earlier this week – “starved to save our green jobs”. They know their struggle links labour and climate concerns – it is time this connection was cemented in the way people assess disputes like this one rather than fetishised in the media as a phenomenological development.


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