This is a report posted on the Workers’ Liberty website this evening. Workers’ Liberty have been very involved in initiating and building the campaign at Vestas. Obviously, this report has a political argument to make, and there will be other opinions – but rather than hold back from publishing it, we would encourage others to join in the debate! That’s what the comments section is for, or people can submit alternative views via firstname.lastname@example.org. Quite apart from the merits (or otherwise!) of the argument here it’s important that the information contained in the report is known.
After two and a half weeks of saying that there was nothing to discuss, the Government finally agreed to meet the Vestas workers on Thursday 6 August.
Mike Godley, an occupier who left the factory on Tuesday 4th and is now a RMT steward for the “outside” workers, reported back on the meeting at the 6pm rally at the factory entrance on 6 August.
Mike Godley, with another steward, Sean McDonagh, had met Joan Ruddock, Minister of State in Ed Miliband’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, together with an RMT representative and a Unite representative (why a Unite representative, was not explained).
Mike Godley’s verdict on it was that the Government had tried to do all it could, and found it was just impossible to keep the factory open. Joan Ruddock had told him that the Government had offered money to Vestas, and been refused. It had offered to buy Vestas, and been told by the company that it did not want to sell. (Apparently, Vestas indicated what has long been rumoured among Vestas workers, that its plan is not really to shut down the factory, but to “mothball” it for a while until it thinks the time better for the investment needed to convert it to new processes. What happens to the Vestas workers in the meantime? The bosses don’t care).
Mike said that the picket at the Newport plant needs to continue. But his clear implication was that its goal is really now to win reinstatement of redundancy pay for the workers in the occupation who have been sacked by Vestas, and maybe some promises for future Government investment plans on the island.
Jonathan Neale (SWP/Campaign Against Climate Change) spoke after Mike, and hailed the meeting with Ruddock as “halfway to victory”. He said that the goal now should be to nail down the promises given by Ruddock.
I spoke and said that we should not accept that the Government “cannot” take over Vestas. The workers’ demand is nationalisation, and Governments can nationalise enterprises even when the owner doesn’t want it! I should also have pointed out that Vestas bosses’ willingness or otherwise to sell the site to the Government depends on how effective the picket outside the factory remains. They still need to get blades and equipment out of it. If they can’t do that, they could well yet decide that handing over to the Government is the lesser evil.
Ventnorblog gives this report, which confirms what Mike Godley said.
In a meeting with two Vestas workers and senior union officials, Joan Ruddock MP said those who were sacked for taking part in the Vestas sit-in should get their redundancy reinstated.
We’ve recently spoken to Sean McDonagh from Vestas who was on his way back from a meeting in London with Minister of State, Joan Ruddock MP.
He and Mike Godley had met with TUC, Unite, Bob Crow (RMT) and John Leach, President of the RMT, at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) to discuss with Joan Ruddock what the government could do for the workers at the Vestas Blades plant.
The minister said that she was fully supportive that those who took part in the sit-in should not lose their redundancy benefits as the company had threatened them with in their dismissal notices.
She also said, “Vestas might have abandoned the Island, but the government won’t.”
We spoke to the DECC press office and they told us that they cannot comment on the conversation.
During the discussion Joan Ruddock also said that the government had carried out extensive talks with the management of Vestas and no matter what they offered, Vestas were not interested in keeping the factory open making wind turbine blades.
Read carefully, and you see that Ruddock made no hard commitments at all to the workers. Unless the Government does take over the factory, it has no control over whether Vestas reinstates the redundancy payments or not, so all Ruddock is doing on that score is expressing an opinion.
One unfortunate aspect of the talks was that, arranged at short notice, they took place without most of the Vestas stewards knowing anything about them. There has not really been an opportunity for the Vestas workers to discuss collectively what they think of what Ruddock said, and what response they should make.
The SWP and others are now putting all their emphasis on getting the key activists among the Vestas workers out on the road to speak at protests and meetings round the country.
Those protests and meetings are important. But they are fundamentally an add-on to the workers’ action at the factory. They will still be fundamentally an add-on if the workers are forced back to picketing the factory from outside – as the Visteon Enfield workers were. In fact, such picketing can be more effective at Vestas, since much of the stuff that Vestas bosses want to get out has to go out through the “marine gate” and onto barges on the river. To do so, it has to cross a cycle path which is a public right of way. And it can only be done in a window of about two hours around each high tide.
No-one says that the picket should be abandoned. But if most of its key organisers are pulled out to speak around the country, then the picket cannot be built up as it should be. The wider circles of Vestas workers cannot be kept involved if their key organisers are pulled out.
That the Government initiated talks shows that the workers’ struggle is biting. The job now should be to build up the pickets and the action round the factory, not to scale it down; and to increase pressure for the workers’ demands, not to take the Government’s word for it that the key demands are unworkable.
Rally to the mass pickets! No retreat on the demand that the Government save the Vestas workers’ jobs!