Britain: Factory occupation a fight for jobs and planet

Issue 

Workers at Britain's only wind turbine factory, on the Isle of Wight, launched an indefinite occupation on July 20 to protest its pending closure and the loss of more than 600 green jobs.

Danish company Vestas Windsystems owns the factory. The company announced the factory closure despite posting a 70% rise in profits for the first quarter of 2009.

Around 30 workers are taking part in the occupation. They are demanding the British government nationalise the plant.

A statement on the factory occupation website, , said "the [British] government has just announced a major expansion of renewable energy including wind power".

The closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory "makes no sense from a green or a labour perspective", the workers said.

The workers called on Vestas "to keep the factories open, saving jobs and offering those who want to leave a better redundancy deal".

If Vestas refuses, then they call "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".

A Vestas worker told British Socialist Worker on July 21: "We've occupied our factory to save our jobs — and to save the planet. Six hundred people work here. That many jobs going will have a devastating effect ...

"We need renewable energy if we're going to stop global warming. When the government says it wants green energy and green jobs, it's criminal that it's closing Vestas ...

"We decided we were going to go for it. People thought, 'It's now or never'. We went in as two teams, from both sides of the factory. All of the doors were locked — apart from the front door!"

In response, Vestas management built a steel fence around the plant and threatened to not allow food into the factory until the workers ended the occupation. Riot police arrested supporters who tried to smuggle food inside.

By July 23, Vestas backed down and food deliveries to the plant resumed.

Vestas has served the occupying workers with papers charging them with aggravated trespass. The company has also said the workers have been officially fired and will not be paid redundancies owed to them.

In an opinion piece in the July 23 British Guardian, British government climate change secretary Ed Miliband said, "there must be a strategy for the Isle of Wight to do all we can to help and there is.

"Not just support for the workers who are losing their jobs, but a strategy to work with Vestas."

However, he has refused to endorse the one strategy — nationalisation — that might hurt the profits of a single greedy company, but would save the wind turbine plant from closure.