Nationwide day of protest over Vestas

By Ian Dunt and Liz Stephens

Britain was struck by nationwide protests today, as activists and trade unionists angry over the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory vented their anger.

From Birmingham to Warrington, demonstrations and rallies took place across the country.

“The day of action gives everyone a chance to send a clear message to the company and to the government that this is an issue that will not go away,” said Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, which represents a substantial block of the Vestas workforce.

“The fight for Vestas and for the future of wind turbine manufacture in England is far from over.”

The union is fighting to get the factory, in the Isle of Wight, back into production, with help from environmental activists.

Jonathan Neale of the Campaign Against Climate Change (CCC) told “Nationally there are over 40 events happening today across the UK.

“It’s about getting the jobs back for the Vestas workers but we need half a million jobs in renewable energy to beat climate change.”

Alex Flynn, a spokesperson for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), who organised an event in Westminster today, told “It’s important that people show their support for the Vestas workers, not only because of the disgraceful way they are being treated but also because of the environmental issues at stake.

“The government needs to intervene if it’s serious about green energy and tackling climate change.”

However, in a statement today the company said the present UK market “is not large enough to justify the required investment to convert the Isle of Wight factory to produce blades for the UK market.

“In particular, the local planning process for onshore wind power plants in the UK remains an obstacle to the development of the market.”

Ole Borup Jakobsen, president of Vestas Blades said: “The decision to close the factory was very difficult, and we fully recognise the impact this will have on employees, their families and on the Isle of Wight.”

“Nonetheless, this commercial decision was absolutely necessary to secure Vestas’competiveness and create a regional balance between production and the demand for wind turbines.”

Vestas workers occupied the factory for 18 days, before bailiffs entered last Friday. Unions want the workers reinstated and threat of black-listing lifted.

“The fight for Vestas and for the future of wind turbine manufacture in England is far from over. We are continuing to back this brave group of workers,” Mr Crow said.

There were rallies and demonstrations today in Birmingham, the London borough of Hackney, Nottingham, Oxford, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Southampton and Warrington.

Brighton, Cardiff, Central London, Liverpool and Wrexham saw public meetings, while Gordon Brown’s constituency office in Cowdenbeath was picketed from midday, despite the prime minister being in the Lake District.

Another day of action in support of Vestas workers is planned for 9th September.