Nationalisation of the turbine plant is the only rational option
Ed Miliband’s comment in the Guardian is a sorry attempt to excuse the irresponsible behaviour of Vestas management in closing the Isle of Wight plant. It seems that Miliband and his government are more prepared to defend the interests of big business than to solve the problem of climate change and keep people in work.
Miliband makes Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel’s arguments for him: that planning regulations and opposition from Nimby groups makes putting up wind turbines difficult. But Miliband claims that the government intends to change the planning rules next year. If that’s true, then the government should be stockpiling blades in preparation for the change – not shutting down the only onshore wind blade factory in the UK. Miliband parrots Engel’s nonsense about a lack of demand: but the Department for Energy and Climate Change has itself set a target for a fivefold increase in on-shore wind energy. There can be no excuses – the decision to allow the plant to close is irrational.
Closing down the plant would not only bring misery to the people of the Isle of Wight – it would also disperse the skill base at the plant, which has been used to train up workers in Australia and the USA. If the plant needs to be refurbished and lengthened and new machinery brought in – so be it. The government found the money to bail out the banks to the tune of billions – the few tens of millions that such a refurbishment would cost would be a miniscule sum in comparison.
Miliband is right to say that “the question is not one of subsidies”. Vestas bosses have demonstrated that they are determined to close down the Isle of Wight plant and move production to America. The solution does not lie in throwing more money at these profiteers. We agree that “there must be a strategy for the Isle of Wight”, to bring about the required expansion of jobs and wind energy production. But New Labour’s ideological commitment to the free market and the rule of profit prevents them from developing such a strategy. On the other hand, the workers at Vestas, the workers’ movement and the environmental movement are providing a clear vision for the way forward: we demand the nationalisation of the factory.
Workers at the Lindsey oil refinery, fresh from their victory over employers and the anti-union laws, have sent messages of support and financial aid. Other trade unionists have been quick to follow suit. The FBU, the RMT, workers from the Visteon car plants, teachers at the Lewisham Bridge Primary School who occupied against its closure, workers at a South Korean car plant, Danish and American trade unionists and many more have rallied round to support us. Labour movements and environmental militants are holding mass meetings of supporters in cities around the country and the world.
We at Workers’ Climate Action believe that the alliance of the climate change movement and the workers’ movement, and the solidarity from workers the world over shows the real social agency that can solve climate change and the economic crisis. It is Vestas workers and their allies who have shown the will to develop this industry. Production can and should be continued on the Isle of Wight under the control of Vestas workers themselves.
We call upon workers and environmental activists to join the campaign to save the Vestas factory, and to develop a broader working-class solution to climate change and economic crisis.
EDWARD MALTBY, WORKERS CLIMATE ACTION
see also article from the environment section.