We have been maintaining a 24 hour picket-camp at the marine gate of the Newport Vestas factory since the eviction of the workers’ occupation in August. This is to block Vestas management shutting down the factory while 11 of the occupiers remain sacked and hundreds of islanders out of work. It looks like they will try to break the picket tonight or tomorrow (21st/22nd September).
We have said to Vestas management, the Isle of Wight Council, the local police, the government – to our own labour and environmental movements – that we are fighting for the factory to stay open; we need socially useful jobs now, we want renewables now, and Vestas and the government cannot be allowed to treat workers and a community with such contempt.
At the Trade Union Congress last week, in a question to Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, one trade unionist said, you’ve pronounced the Congress slogans, “Jobs, Justice, Climate”, incorrectly: you should have said “Vestas”.
Too right. The fight over Vestas on the Isle of Wight has been a beacon (and a wake-up call) to very many people on the Isle of Wight and around the world, summing up what we’re working for – and the powers that stand in our way.
You couldn’t hope to know all the countless ways that people everywhere have acted in solidarity with this campaign. As one signboard cartoon by the oak tree reads: out of tiny acorns grow mighty revolutions.
It might have been the same speaker at the TUC that quoted Ed’s much more principled dad Ralph Miliband: “Rhetoric is easy, the truth is concrete.”
Last week, and again today, our bits of concrete to block the path of the crane were removed by the police, Vestas security and scab labour. This has been an inspiring kind of picket line: in the next 12 hours it will be a good group of people that will stand in the way of these blades on the picket – with one Vestas worker on the tripod; workers and their friends and family, socialists, climate activists, trade unionists, local working-class people. This has been, and is, everyone’s fight.
We have been clear, in our words and our actions, that this is our factory and our blades. There is no financial or rhetorical subsititute now for direct action on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere around the country. This is a live fight, with its frontline in Newport. It has been many a year since our movement has put up a real picket of a corporation. At midday tomorrow, the Blade Runner barge which was boarded in Southampton a week ago will move to clear the factory of the remaining blades. Our banner then said “Our Blades, Our Power”. It is still true.
We hope people will join the picket line tomorrow and in the coming days. The Council, the police, Vestas think that support has waned, they are trying to say that it is protestors that are putting jobs at risk, that the Isle of Wight might get a bad reputation for not rolling over obediently for employers – basically, a reputation for standing up and doing what is right.
What has been most inspiring about this campaign, exemplified by the occupation of management’s offices by a group of dedicated workers – is that it is through our direct action that we will take back control of the world we live in, in order to save it.