Posted by: vickim57 | 7 August 2009

A report from the factory on Thurs 6 Aug: the government has had talks with the Vestas workers – keep up the pressure because nothing but nothing has been won yet!

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 savevestas@googlemail.com. 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!

Martin Thomas


Responses

  1. So the democratically elected government of the country hopes that the Vestas occupiers will not be penalised and will get their redundancy payment (and that is the extent of the democratically elected government’s ambition). Meanwhile, down on the Isle of Wight, it will take the mass action of the labour and environmental movement today and day after day after that to have any hope at all of getting this private company whose sole raison d’etre is making profits, to deliver even that piffling ‘gain’. And there you have (some of) what’s wrong with the world!

  2. together with an RMT representative and a Unite representative (why a Unite representative, was not explained)

    That’d perhaps be because the RMT have wisely chosen to jump from the sinking NuLab ship, whereas Unite are keeping the faith (blindly)?

    Sending speakers about is of course a vital part of campaigning building, but the Vestas workers need to keep control of that, and decide for themselves who should go and when and where. (Important to maintain a broad unity and not allow this campaign to be hijacked by any particular bunch of entryist trots, especially if you’re trying to establish a ‘red-black-green’ coalition)

    Agree with Vickim57’s points

  3. RMT NEWS RELEASE

    August 7 2009

    RMT accuses Vestas of knocking back turbine factory rescue deal

    OFFSHORE ENERGY UNION RMT today accused the owners of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight of “kicking the legs” from under a rescue package that could have saved it from closure.

    RMT officials Bob Crow and John Leach, along with representatives of the Vestas workforce, met with energy minister Joan Ruddock yesterday to discuss the future of the factory.

    During the meeting it emerged that the government had offered a series of rescue options to the company but each one had been rejected.

    Bailiffs notices were served yesterday on the remaining six men in occupation and moves are expected by noon today by the company to retake possession of the buildings.

    RMT general secretary Bob Crow said

    “Whatever happens today, the workers involved in the Vestas occupation can hold their heads up high and be proud of the brave fight they have put up for green jobs. They have turned a local fight over a factory closure on the Isle of Wight into a global battle for the future of manufacturing in the renewable energy sector and that is an extraordinary achievement.

    “There should now be an investigation into Vestas’ activities in the UK as it appears from the meeting with the minister that they kicked the legs from under a perfectly viable rescue deal which could have saved the factory. We cannot have a situation where companies like this turn the tap on and off on key manufacturing jobs. They should not be allowed to simply up sticks and shift production to other parts of the world regardless of the impact on the local economy.

    “RMT will continue to work to secure the best possible deal for the Vestas workforce and specifically the workers sacked during the occupation. The fight to get this unit back into production, making turbines for the UK, goes on.”

    For further information contact Geoff Martin on 07818 513 435 or 0207 255 9146

  4. Transparency and informed decision making is the issue.

    The owners of Vestas have been the clumsiest when keeping their hands close to their chest and spreading disinformation particularly about their reasons for closing the factory. The occupiers have forced the real intentions out into the open. It is with admiration that the workers have waged their struggle in such a way as to reveal all of their intentions and with transparency.

    The involvement of workers, uniting islanders and trades unionists and wider environmentalists in the debate about the future of production has been to their credit too. The decision making about the future also has to develop along these lines.

    Already new revelations from the company about exercising their property rights, the reasons for invoking the courts for eviction are coming out. The company does not want to simply walk away and leave the means for the skills to continue to operate in competition. It appears they want to keep the premises, which were more or less funded outside of their own investment resource. It seems that they would like to mothball it. So the true intentions are revealed, as they have done before when they have dictated the terms, hired and fired at will, set on temporary labour and got rid of it when they wanted as commercial decision makers only interested in taking more out of the island than they have put in. To mothball would mean opening up again with selected new labour when it suits and the market looks favourable. In this way the market remains cornered and profitable.
    New Labour, with the likes of Ed Miliband at the head, the Labour Party, also keeps their hands close to their chest. The Lords of labour want to by pass the workers and the citizens of the Isle of Wight with new secret plans. One secret plan may have been revealed by Joan Ruddock who indicated that the offer to buy the plant by the government may also have been an option pursued for a while previously.
    If there are new investment opportunities being hatched and wind turbine and blade production is to be set up, the Isle of Wight Citizens will take part. Sidelining is not an option. There are discussions taking place over consortiums, cooperatives direct government intervention and all manner and means of continuity. These are not light decisions and should and will be made by the community with the Vestas workers at centre stage.
    When the occupation is over, there will be workers remaining on the island that worked at Vestas. There are the Isle of Wight Citizens who have the island economy to worry about supported by their Trades Councils etc. The struggle will continue and the work will go on to demand that more is put into the island economy than is taken out.
    It is from this standpoint that Ryde Trades Council continues to ask that more join it and help disseminate the continuing issues facing the workers and people on the Isle of Wight. Ryde Trades council therefore joins with Portsmouth Trades Council and East Cowes Trades Council, the unions and in particular RMT, the environmentalist and Climate change workers and activists in giving unreserved and unconditional support to the Vestas workers in their on-going struggle.

    UNITY IS STRENGTH!

    rydetcouncil@yahoo.com

    http://rtuc.wordpress.com/

  5. thanks for the opportunity given to comment, I visited another opportunity again


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