Vestas has started rapidly shipping blades from stock in Southampton to the USA. Two ships carrying 90 blades each have sailed from Southampton this week (17-21 August), and a third is currently being loaded with 109 blades. According to the Vestas workers’ contacts in Southampton docks, another two sailings are scheduled soon.
Around 11 blades – worth over three quarters of a million pounds – remained unfinished in the Isle of Wight factories. A group of workers occupied the St Cross factory from 20 July, and from that day Vestas bosses, fearful of further occupations, told all other workers both at St Cross and at the other factory, Venture Quays, to stay home on full pay until it finally made them redundant on 12 August.
The probability must be that Vestas has those 11 blades booked on to one of the sailings scheduled soon, and will move soon to finish them and try to move them by barge to Southampton.
Vestas forced the eviction of the workers occupying St Cross on 7 August, and “clean-up” teams are now working in both factories, despite continuing workers’ pickets at St Cross (including, since 10 August, on the back gate) and pickets planned at Venture Quays from 24 August.
But moving the blades – and, possibly, moulds and other equipment which Vestas wants out of the factories – is not so simple. They have to go by barge, at high tide, and, at St Cross, across a cycle path which is a public right of way.
Vestas workers will need a new influx of supporters from the mainland to help them protest against the moving of the blades.
Unite members on Southampton docks, though not industrially strong enough to stop the movement of the blades, are in touch with the Vestas workers and giving what help they can. The Vestas workers have also established contact with the dockworkers in Beaumont, Texas, who will be unloading the blades in the USA.
Vestas workers are organising a rally and march on 22 August in Sandown, 13:00 from the Pier. Another rally, in Bembridge, will follow on 29 August.
The long-running picket at the front gate at St Cross is better organised now, with a caravan at the site to serve as an office for the workers’ committee; since 21 August, a standpipe supplying running water to the pickets; and work underway on a generator to supply electricity to the pickets, to be run both on solar power and bicycle-power. (No, wind turbines don’t work well on that small a scale. Blades for efficient wind turbines are 40 metres long, or longer).