Save Vestas! Save the Climate too…

July 22, 2009

30 workers at the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight have occupied their workplace in protest against plans to shut the facility – which manufactures wind turbine blades – next week.

Vestas, a Danish firm, is moving production of the blades away from the UK to the U.S. – which is the major market for the type of blades that the facility produces owing to “reduced demand for wind turbines in northern Europe” as the BBC reports.

625 workers face the sack, many of them young (and at least one having taken out a mortgage on their first home in the past two weeks). 200 of them joined a protest outside the factory on Tuesday when they were turned away after reporting for work, along with climate change protesters who see the Vestas factory as a vital part of the UK’s renewable energy strategy (whatever that amounts to these days).

Alas, so far the government has failed to offer assurances that it will support for Vestas facility, either by committing to buy its products as part of its much vaunted renewables strategy or by buying the plant and establishing a national, publicly owned wind energy industry.

To its credit, the government has not ignored the Vestas problem. After the firm announced in early 2009 that it “expects to lay off approx 1,900 employees in the production units in Northern Europe, primarily in Denmark and England” as “demand in this area at the moment does not meet expectations,” the UK government made a commitment in April to what the Vestas first quarter report calls “massive investments in wind power and higher tariffs.”

Yet despite the firm stating in that report that this “will have a positive influence on Vestas’ possibilities of producing blades in Great Britain” it is still going ahead with the closure, evidently holding out for greater largesse from the British state. It is, in short, acting as any corporation would in the circumstances. Vestas is the only turbine blade producer in the UK and has the government over a barrel, assuming the government is too timid to take the firm on.

This lays bare the hollowness of a climate change policy based on market forces. Relying on multinational companies to provide the equipment to build a renewables infrastructure in Britain is pointless without a strong public component and a degree of planning.

Climate Change Minister Ed Milliband now stands justly accused of putting profit before the planet and its people. As one Vestas worker told the Guardian, “It would be a tiny step financially to keep this factory open, but it would be a huge statement about the government’s commitment to the green economy.”

Take Action

Climate change activists are gathering tonight (Wednesday 22 July) outside the Department for Energy and Climate Change, which is headquartered in Whitehall Place (just off Whitehall close to the Trafalgar Square end).

Vestas workers have been told that they will lose their redundancy packages if they do not back down from their occupation, yet their protest continues. The SaveVestas website relates that supporters can join a picket outside the plant or an “environmental camp” being set up at the gates.

A meeting has also been organized in Newport, Isle of Wight, to take place between 6.30 and 8.30 pm at the Methodist Church in Quay Street, while there will be a protest in Newport’s St Thomas Square at 5.30 on Friday.

The Ryde and East Wight Trades Union is also taking donations to a fund for the Vestas workers and cheques can be mailed to:

22 Church Lane
Ryde
Isle of Wight
PO33 2NB

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