Posted by: vickim57 | 16 August 2009

Vestas workers and WCA reply to Guardian report, Wednesday 12 August

The Guardian wrote a report about the closure of Vestas, date Wednesday 12 August. WCA and some of the Vestas workers sent a reply (not published), which we publish below. The original Guardian report is underneath.

Dear Editor,

Further to your report (“Vestas factory closes despite campaign”), and in spite of the redundancies announced at Vestas, Isle of Wight yesterday, the campaign to save the only major wind turbine blade manufacturer in the UK is not something in the past but remains an urgent cause for unions and green activists, and for many of the Vestas workers (both current and recently sacked or laid off).

Why? Because the fundamental issues have not changed: the decision to stop making wind turbine blades on the Isle of Wight does undermine the government’s promise of a “green revolution” that would usher in significantly more renewable energy production and more green jobs.

Moreover, issues that urgently need addressing have emerged during the campaign, not least that Vestas probably only intend to mothball the plant and would recommence production if the price were right, either in government subsidies, or because the market picked up.

One of the questions that we all – campaigners, both environmental and trade union, and all working people – need to examine is whether we can let job creation, and the transition to renewable energy production that we need, rest on the short-term business decisions of private companies whose guiding principle is their bottom line. We argue that we cannot. We need to act as a public collectively, in our collective interest, including, if necessary, taking over plants and industries that cannot or will not deliver the change we need.

The government also needs to recognise that when it pins its hopes on partnership with private companies, it is often getting into bed with employers who treat their workforce with contempt. Vestas’ proposal to look again at the cases of the ‘Vestas Eleven’, who occupied the plant and who they sacked, has little to do with Vestas’ fair-mindedness and much to do with the fact that the workers’ picket of the factory is continuing and Vestas would like it to end.

Chris Ash, Andy Mackenzie, Luke Paxton, Mark Smith, Mark Stringer, Tracey Yeates – Vestas workers
Edward Maltby – Workers’ Climate Action


Guardian article:

Vestas factory closes despite campaign

• Windfarm maker ends Isle of Wight plant production
• Site had been occupied by angry workers for 18 days

by Paul Lewis and Gwladys Fouché in Aarhus
Wednesday 12 August 2009 19.02 BST

The Danish windfarm company Vestas told more than 400 UK employees today that they had been made redundant, marking the official closure of its Isle of Wight factory that had been occupied for 18 days by angry workers.

The campaign to save the only major wind turbine blade manufacturer in the UK became a cause celebre for unions and green activists, who argued the move undermined the government’s promise of a “green revolution” that would result in the installation of 10,000 wind turbines by 2020 and create thousands of jobs.

Describing the closure of the factory as an “absolutely necessary commercial decision”, Vestas repeated its complaint about the slow pace of growth in the onshore wind turbine market in the UK.

The company, which is moving the production of wind turbine blades to the US, had planned to convert the Isle of Wight factory to make blades more suitable for the UK market. The decision was reversed in April, in part because of what the company said was the UK’s “local planning process for onshore wind power plants”.
About 11 workers at the Newport plant began occupying an office building on the site on 20 July. The sit-in came to an end last week after a court order authorised bailiffs to remove the workers.

However, the dispute delayed the company’s plans and meant the consultation process which should have permitted the company to close the factory gates at the end of last month was not completed until yesterday, when Vestas said it had made 425 workers redundant, including a small number based in Southampton.

The company said 40 employees had been found new jobs on a research and development facility on the island, which recently received a government grant, and a further 57 are being kept on to help close the site, a process a spokesman said would probably take “months, not weeks”.

Ditlev Engel, the CEO of Vestas, told the Guardian the company could review its decision to strip the 11 workers identified as participating in the sit-in of their redundancy benefits. “The last thing we wanted was to have this confrontation,” he said. “Coming back to the 11 people, we will have to revisit, to look at that.”
Asked whether it meant Vestas would change its decision to dismiss the men and remove their redundancy package, Engel said, “I am not ruling anything out”.

Engel urged a review in the country’s planning laws, which he said were hampering the development of wind energy. “In the UK, there is a clear division between what the government would like to see happening and what certain local politicians want to see happening, or rather not want to see happening … there is not necessarily the same ambition levels,” he said, adding the government needed to invest in the electricity transmission grid to make it more friendly to wind energy.

Sean McDonagh, 32, a Vestas worker maintained the campaign has succeeded in holding the government to account on its spending priorities. “We, the taxpayer, have had to bail out the banks – an industry that’s not working,” he said. “The renewable sector is something that has got to work.”


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