Direct action will be needed. We are asking for help with that
Mark Smith, one of the Vestas occupiers, spoke at a Workers’ Liberty meeting in London on Tuesday 25th August.
The background to this is Vestas told us that our jobs were safe and they would be trying a new blade suitable for onshore. This was up to the end of April. Then one of the bosses came over from Denmark and said that wasn’t happening and we would go into 90-day redundancy.
We couldn’t talk to the management, and we had no option but to occupy. We were 17 originally in the occupation, which went down to six at the end.
Now we are fighting to nationalise the plant or save it by getting another manufacturer in to take it over.
The South East England Development Agency and the government are offering Vestas £6 million for a Research and Development (R&D) facility on the Island. We have spoken to the council about this, about whether they have to give the money to Vestas. It seems that another manufacturer could have it. We are looking into that. Vestas’ lease is coming up on the East Cowes, Venture Quays site – someone else coming to work on the Island could take that on.
Whoever else comes to take on the factories, we want the workers to have a big say in what happens – that is one of our stipulations.
We are putting a lot of pressure on the council to make this happen.
Vestas then would only have the Newport factory. That could be bought from them. Vestas would no longer be on the Island and, probably, given that they only have offices in Warrington, they would leave England altogether.
We are calling Vestas’ bluff and telling them: either stay and commit to making wind turbines blades, or get out.
At the moment we are trying to stop Vestas getting blades out. They are shipping out blades from Southampton to the US. We think they want to get the nine blades in St Cross [Newport factory] out. Direct action will be needed. We are asking for help with that, and ideas.
They also need to move out a mould worth £1 million to join the two they have in the US already. There is a lot of valuable machinery in the existing R&D side of the plant, machinery which they only have in England. That is very valuable.
At the moment clean-up teams – newly formed ‘production engineering groups’ – made up of managers and some engineers are going into the factory. This provides 80-100 jobs at the most. We are leafleting them but they are still going into work. But they will only be paid for six weeks and in a month will be out of work as well. We are asking them to join the RMT union and join us in the campaign.
We are trying to put pressure on the Chief Executive Officer in Denmark and on the government and its agencies.
If you can visit Vestas overnight on Tuesday 1st-Wednesday 2nd September, Battersea and Wandsworth trades council are organising a minibus. Contact Nadine Houghton – email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 07946 172461 – to express interest – soon!