RMT & VESTAS July 2010

ONE YEAR after workers occupied the Vestas wind turbines factory on the Isle of Wight in protest at the company’s decision to cease production a new organisation, Sureblades, set up by former Vestas employees, has risen from the ashes and is due to begin production of blades within two months just yards from the closed factory. CLICK HERE for more information.

OFFSHORE ENERGY UNION RMT called (Wednesday August 12) for full support for a day of action in support of the Vestas wind turbines factory campaign which will be marked by events up and down the country 

RMT, which represents a substantial block of the Vestas workforce, is continuing to support the fight to get the Isle of Wight factory back into production and is sending out a clear signal that the campaign for wind turbine manufacture in England is far from over.

RMT is also backing those workers who have been sacked and victimised at Vestas during the 18 day occupation and is leading a campaign to get them reinstated and to get the threat of black-listing lifted from over their heads.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said:  “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 and the day of action tomorrow 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.”

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 August 7 2009 - RMT accuses Vestas of knocking back turbine factory rescue deal

OFFSHORE ENERGY UNION RMT today accused the owners of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight of “kicking the legs” from under a rescue package that could have saved it from closure.

RMT officials Bob Crow and John Leach, along with representatives of the Vestas workforce, met with energy minister Joan Ruddock yesterday to discuss the future of the factory.  During the meeting it emerged that the government had offered a series of rescue options to the company but each one had been rejected.

Bailiffs notices were served yesterday on the remaining six men in occupation and moves are expected by noon today by the company to retake possession of the buildings.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said   "Whatever happens today, the workers involved in the Vestas occupation can hold their heads up high and be proud of the brave fight they have put up for green jobs. They have turned a local fight over a factory closure on the Isle of Wight into a global battle for the future of manufacturing in the renewable energy sector and that is an extraordinary achievement. There should now be an investigation into Vestas' activities in the UK as it appears from the meeting with the minister that they kicked the legs from under a perfectly viable rescue deal which could have saved the factory. We cannot have a situation where companies like this turn the tap on and off on key manufacturing jobs. They should not be allowed to simply up sticks and shift production to other parts of the world regardless of the impact on the local economy.  RMT will continue to work to secure the best possible deal for the Vestas workforce and specifically the workers sacked during the occupation. The fight to get this unit back into production, making turbines for the UK, goes on."

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August 3 2009 - RMT keeps up pressure on Vestas in advance of court hearing

OFFSHORE ENERGY UNION RMT kept up the pressure on Vestas and the government today in the run up to tomorrows re-scheduled court hearing for repossession and as the occupation of the wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight heads into its third week.

At the weekend, RMT made a formal complaint to the police under the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act calling for them to take action to stop Vestas private security guards from blockading food deliveries into the factory. On Saturday, RMT officials were allowed to take in a supply of groceries but by Sunday the company were back to the hard line and restricting food deliveries to what RMT has described as “starvation rations.”

The formal complaint to the police has today been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. RMT has confirmed that the union will look at taking out an injunction if adequate supplies are not reinstated after concerns were raised that some of the occupants are showing signs of malnourishment. One protester has already had to leave following advice from health professionals.

Meanwhile, RMT has seized on financial press reports at the weekend that Centrica are due to announce plans for a £1 billion wind farm off Skegness, which will be supplied with turbines from Germany, as “blowing apart the totally bogus argument that Vestas on the Isle of Wight is being closed due to a lack of demand for wind turbines in the UK.”

Bob Crow, general secretary of Vestas’ workers union RMT, said: "It’s a disgrace that Vestas and their private security company are still playing cat and mouse over food supplies into the factory. This brave bunch, who are fighting for their livelihoods and for the future of turbine manufacture in England, are being treated far worse than the prisoners just up the road at Parkhurst who are legally entitled to three square meals a day.  We welcome the support of the TUC today for this campaign to save 625 green manufacturing jobs and the future of wind turbine production in England. 2700 turbines will be needed by 2012 on current projections and reports of the Centrica plans off Skegness will only increase the opportunities.  RMT are calling for an urgent government intervention to save the plant and to show the country that they are walking the talk when it comes to green jobs and renewable energy.  A deal to rescue the Kintyre turbine factory was done with the support of the Scottish Parliament earlier this year when Vestas pulled the plug – the same could be done again.”

 

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July 31 2009  Occupation holds back Vestas factory closure date 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOdf4iQgmcM

Save Vestas blog CLICK HERE

The occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight today passed another significant milestone with the workers holding back the scheduled closure date of the facility.

Vestas had planned to close the factory today – Friday 31 July – but as a result of the occupation, and the global campaign in support of the workforce, they have been pushed back.

This weekend will see a further show of the strength of the growing support for the Vestas workforce with crowds from the cancelled Big Green Gathering diverting to the Isle of Wight in what will be another important boost for the Save Vestas campaign.

on Saturday 1st August, there will be a major demonstration in support of the campaign starting at 1pm from St Thomas’s Square in Newport town centre.

RMT have also congratulated Gerry Byrne who took the Vestas protest to the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square for an hour this morning between 5am and 6am.

Bob Crow, general secretary of Vestas workers’ union RMT, said:  “The fact that the Vestas campaign has held back the scheduled closure date today is another significant milestone in the fight to save the factory and 625 skilled manufacturing jobs in green energy.  This weekend will see a major demonstration of the growing support for the Vestas campaign which has fired the imagination of the labour and environmental movements all around the world.  RMT remains deeply concerned as to the well being of those in occupation and we will be taking further legal and health advice today. This brave group of workers continue to be denied access to their basic human rights to nutritional food and liquids and we are making every effort to get supplies through.”

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July 29 2009

Vestas Blades UK on the Isle of Wight was due to close on 31st July. 600 jobs will be lost immediately, many more jobs that depend on Vestas will follow. This makes no sense! The government has just announced a major expansion of renewable energy including wind power.
30 workers went into occupation last week. The Vestas occupiers are calling on the government to intervene to save jobs at Vestas – through nationalisation if that is what it takes – to show that it is serious about saving the planet.

PROTEST when Energy and Climate Change secretary Ed Milliband MP speaks in Birmingham 5pm, Wednesday 29th July Austin Court, 80 Cambridge St, B1, Birmingham.  Called by Campaign Against Climate Change. Supported by Birmingham Trades Union Council
MEETING with Vestas worker Matthew Scanlan 7.30pm, Wednesday 29th July room 3, Birmingham Council House, Victoria Square 

RMT claims significant victory as Vestas court case is deferred to next Tuesday

OFFSHORE ENERGY UNION RMT today claimed a significant victory in the fight to save the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight after today’s repossession proceedings were deferred until next Tuesday.

RMT, the Vestas workers’ union, said that the deferral of the court hearing exposes the weakness of the companies case and gives the union and climate campaigners vital extra time to mobilise support for the fight to stop the closure. The factory was due to close on Friday and the deferred court proceedings will now take the fight beyond that date.

RMT have also now had contact from the office of Climate Secretary Ed Miliband and are hopeful for urgent talks to broker a solution which will stop the closure of the UK’s only wind turbine factory.

Last night, Vestas sacked 11 workers with dismissal notices smuggled through inside pizza boxes. Today, the company have clamped down again on food deliveries into the factory in a renewed bid to starve the workers out.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: “No one should underestimate the significance of the court throwing out Vestas repossession application today. This is a significant victory which gives us more time to build the global campaign to save Vestas.  It’s a disgrace that the company, in the light of their failure in the courts, are now trying once again to starve the workers out. Prisoners in Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight get three square meals a day and there’s no excuse for denying the Vestas factory workers the basic human right to food and water. They are being treated worse than common criminals.  New figures today show that there will be a massive demand for wind turbines in the UK over the coming years and we are looking for urgent talks to nail down a solution which saves the UK’s only wind turbine factory from closure.”

Vestas bogus statements exposed as RMT slams company for treating staff “worse than you’d treat a dog”

OFFSHORE ENERGY UNION RMT today called for urgent government intervention to stop the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight after statements from the company that “demand is too low” for turbines in the UK were exposed as totally bogus.

Vestas, who are in court this morning seeking a possession order against staff occupying the Isle of Wight factory, are leading members of the British Wind Energy Association. Today, a survey by the Association revealed that the UK will need 2700 new wind turbines by 2012, blowing apart Vestas argument that the Isle of Wight factory, the only producer of wind turbines in the UK, is not viable. Government reports suggest that the UK will need 10,000 wind turbines by 2020, all of which will need to be imported if Vestas is closed in Newport.

Last night Vestas sacked 11 staff engaged in the occupation with dismissal letters smuggled through in pizza boxes – a move slammed as “cowardly” and “worse than you’d treat a dog” by the Vestas workers’ union, RMT.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, who will be at the Vestas factory this afternoon, said:  “The arguments used for closing Vestas on the Isle of Wight, that UK demand for wind turbines is too low, have today been exposed as totally bogus and on those grounds alone the Government should step in to save this factory and the 625 skilled manufacturing jobs before it is too late.  Vestas have had millions in government subsidies and this week scooped up another £7 million in R&D money just days before they are due to close their only UK factory. They have touted themselves around like corporate prostitutes, sucking up taxpayers money while moving to dump their UK force on the scrap heap and that’s a scandal.  Yesterday, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson talked about “our low-carbon industrial future”. Today, the government have the chance to walk the talk, to step in and nationalise Vestas and save green jobs at the UK’s only wind turbine factory. They cannot sit idly by while a factory that UK wind energy production will need for the future is ripped apart.”

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27 July - RMT calls for show of strength in support of Vestas wind turbine occupation

OFFSHORE ENERGY UNION RMT today called for a show of strength from trade unionists and environmental campaigners in what will be a crucial week for the workers involved in the occupation to stop the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight.

On Wednesday morning at 10am (29 July), the hearing seeking to evict the protesters will be heard at Newport County Court and a protest will be mobilised outside the court house.

At 6pm on Wednesday there will be a further mass demonstration in support of the occupation outside the Vestas factory gates.

The company have set this Friday (31 July) as the deadline for closing the factory with the loss of 625 jobs.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, whose union represents a substantial number of the Vestas workforce, said today: “I would urge all trade unionists and environmental campaigners to make every effort to step up the campaign for the Vestas workforce in what will be a crucial week for their campaign to stop the closure of the factory.  RMT will be continuing to apply pressure to Ed Miliband and the government to step in to prevent the axing of these 625 green jobs, a move which makes a mockery of the governments stated objectives on green employment and renewable energy.  It’s scandalous that the company are threatening to physically drag the workers out of the factory this week and we need to send a message loud and clear that they have massive support for their actions both here in the UK and around the world. The Vestas workers are not criminals, the criminals are the companies who think they can axe jobs with no regard to the long term damage that they inflict on our communities.”

For further information contact Geoff Martin on 07818 513 435  or 0207 255 9146

Bob Crow will be at the Vestas factory at 6pm on Wednesday evening (29 July)

 

A Vestas worker speaks about the struggle

What follows is the text of a speech written by a Vestas worker for delivery at trade union and environmental movement meetings, edited only slightly for style. It gives an excellent insight into the background of the struggle, and its wider political significance:

Hello there – my name is Matt and I’ve come today to speak about a little factory called St. Cross on the Isle of Wight – otherwise known as Vestas; you may have heard about it before…

It is currently in occupation as it’s due to close at the end of the week. Over 625 jobs will be lost at the three plants of St. Cross (Newport), Venture Quays (East Cowes) and Merlin Quays in Southampton (just across the water). There is also a resin factory called Gurit opposite us which is reliant on Vestas and is currently discussing its options, although they do not look good. Many other industries will suffer if Vestas ups and leaves and many more jobs will go. The island’s fragile economy will be plunged back twenty years into reliance upon the tourist trade with its low-paid, season jobs.

We want to keep these factories open, even expand them and build new ones. But not because of our love for Vestas. A few things about Vestas:

Vestas bought out NEG Micon in 2003, and since that time things just got worse as it tried to squeeze the last drop of work out of everyone, sapping them dry. Long hours in a highly stressful environment and fear of RSI amongst other conditions have given it a very high staff turnover. It is extremely anti-union and some workers who have joined unions in the past have been singled out and fired on various grounds. The nearest thing to a union was a consultation network imposed by European law, where supposedly elected representatives (but in reality hand-picked by management) attended meetings where they had no input whatsoever, and were forced to simply absorb and relay management diktat to the rest of the workers. The workers have been given an offer of a pitiful redundancy payout for all their years of conscientious labour, and this has not even been confirmed in writing. This is classic of these multinationals, and the feelings of everyone on the Isle of Wight are running high.

Everybody threatened with unemployment for no reason other than one or other corporation’s desire to move their capital around the world, or find the cheapest sources of nonunionised labour, or the newest set of government subsidies, is by necessity obligated to take action and stand up with their brothers and sisters, or else fall by the wayside and be complicit in the exploitation of them and theirs.

A change in mindset is spontaneously taking place all over the world, from South Korea to Enfield, from Paris to Chile. For too long have the corporations imposed their will on the common man and driven them down without a care for their personal security and livelihoods, their families and their dignity. There is a change that is happening as rapidly as we have seen. Now is the time, and achieving action is easier – far easier – than we would ever have imagined. Let’s look at how our factory occupation began.

At the end of April, the Vestas employees were gathered together and told they would all be at risk of redundancy, and the factory was due to stop production at the end of July.

Naturally we were all shocked and upset at this news, that came out of the blue. We had been told we were the most profitable factory Vestas had! Everyone carried on working as normal; we felt powerless and confused.

A few activists from Workers’ Climate Action began leafleting the factory gates and talking to workers. A public meeting was called. From this, a small group of workers formed a committee and began talking about occupying the factory to prevent closure. These workers began recruiting other workers to the plan, all the while trying to keep it secret from management.

Managers heard about possible direct action and went to one of the sites to attempt to persuade workers to sign a document against any such action. Only two workers signed.

We heard of this and decided to strike quickly. Meeting up, 30 of us split into 3 groups and slipped into the factory unopposed. Working quickly, we secured our chosen area – the management and admin offices at the front of the building. We had successfully outflanked the managers!

We had an ex-union legal man outside who liaised with the police and managers, reminding them of the law and that this was a peaceful protest. We spent the first night sleeping in three-hour shifts. The next day the crowd started to gather outside; workers coming to work were turn away but stayed to show us support, the crowd building by the hour. The managers and police started to give us two-hour deadlines to leave, telling us trespass was a criminal offence. We knew it was a civil matter and they would need a court injunction to remove us. We were threatened with private thugs storming the building and “being heavy handed with us”.

The factory manager Paddy Weir then threatened to go to a DIY store and buy boltcutters to remove us. We laughed at him as the police told him he couldn’t!

By the end of the first day, things had calmed down as the police and managers had exhuasted their threats with no effect on us. The police then promised not to storm the building after video footage of riot cops was sent by us to the media. The factory manager then appeared outside, accompanied by security guards, to talk to the media. He dipped his head and spoke into the two microphones in front of him in the quietest voice possible. Only the media could hear him, none of the workers who were pressed around straining their ears could hear a word. The workers in the crowd booed and jeered as he scuttled back inside the factory.

Supplies were running low by lunchtime of day two. A big crowd had gathered outside to deliver food, demanding to be let through the police and private security lines. When they heard the police would not stop them, they rushed to us throwing food up to the balcony.

On day three, a 7ft fence was erected around the site to stop food coming in. The managers were not providing food at this point. We responsed by hanging a banner out accusing the management of trying to starve us. This looked bad for them as local and national media were outside with a sizeable crowd, now in a semi-permanent camp. Then, suddenly, they announced that they would take responsibility and provide food to us. When this food arrived, however, it turned out to be peanut butter sandwiches, snack bars and fizzy drinks in minimal quantities.

On day three, Bob Crow – the leader of the RMT union – arrived and gave a rousing speech. He even told us of a helicopter on standby ready to air-drop food to the occupiers. At 7:30pm, an aeroplane flew low and circled trailing a banner which read “save our jobs, save our community!” The rally now numbered over 300, consisting of workers’ families and local supporters. At the same time, an injunction was served on the occupiers. The RMT pledged to handle this in court with their legal team. A mass demonstration has been planned for the day of the hearing – Wednesday 29th July outside the Magistrate’s Court in Newport between 9 and 10am.

On day four, a march set off from Newport town centre. 600 people made their way up to the factory site in a show of support. Meanwhile, two workers travelled to London giving a speech at University College London to trade union officials, environmentalists and other groups. Sharing the platform was Chris Baugh, the deputy head of the PCS union, Jonathan Neale, the International Coordinator of the Campaign against Climate Change, and Seamus Milne, a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Guardian. We raised almost a thousand pounds.

On day five, the occupiers were suffering from the lack of a hot meal. This was relayed to the crowd at 6pm. They spontaenously surged forward, shaking the fence and shouting for food to be let in. Within fifteen minutes, a hot meal of spaghetti bolognese had been provided by management. The total arrests now stood at seven people, mainly for suspicion of breach of the peace – whatever that means…

This brings us up to the weekend of the 25/26 July. As you can see, there have been a few things that have been very important to this occupation. Number one – having a group of committed workers with the courage to take action to defend their jobs. Two – having someone with legal training immediately available on the outside, to negotiate with the police and management in the first hours and early days of the occupation. Three – using the media to full effect, providing video footage and interviews from inside the occupation.

This occupation is ongoing, and the support is building every day. What we desperately need from everybody is continued pressure on both the government and Vestas to retool this factory and keep it in operation. It is the only blade manufacturer of wind turbines in Great Britain. The technology we have been so proud of developing is being shipped to America, where Vestas will enjoy Barack Obama’s apparently more serious and determined commitment to clean, green energy. We cannot afford to let this happen. We must stop it now.

None of us involved in this occupation ever thought we would take part in anything like this. We quickly realised that we were at the centre of a perfect storm; we had a golden opportunity to seize the factory and force the issues of green energy, massive job losses and corporate responsibility into the international spotlight. We knew we had to step up and take action, as this was bigger than all of us put together.

Anyone that joins us in this action through coming along and supporting us in person, online, or through taking direct action themselves in their own workplace is participating in a much wider, greater movement. A movement that is truly global, sweeping across the planet and uniting environmentalists, workers and union movements as one force. The ecological movement and the trade union movement have long been divided by one’s desire to protect all jobs, and the other’s desire to scrap some and create others. Now they have come together to demand the maintenance and creation of green jobs for all.

The Vestas factory occupation combines the two wills in one fight – for a cleaner, safer future.  A future with jobs for all.

Thank you.