Britain: Vestas workers' keep up fight for jobs and planet

August 15, 2009

Vestas workers ended their 18-day occupation of Britain's last remaining wind turbine factory on August 6, declaring their fight to be "just the start" of a mass campaign for green jobs.

The last six workers to leave the occupied plant were given a heroes' reception by the hundreds of local residents and supporters who gathered outside the factory near Newport on the Isle of Wight after the company's private security force enforced a court ruling to end the protest.

One of the workers, Jamie Rigby, left the factory on his own terms, jumping 30 feet from a balcony draped with a banner declaring the workers' defiant message to his bosses: "Vestas, this is only the start — you will lose."

Another of the occupiers, Ian Terry, abseiled down the factory wall and insisted that the workers' fight against the company closing down the plant and tearing up the livelihoods of 625 people was "worth all of the sacrifices".

"I would definitely do it all again. If anyone's got a spare factory going, let me know because I'll come and occupy it", he said.

But as the Newport occupation ended, protesters at a roof top demonstration at a second Vestas site in nearby Cowes vowed to "continue for as long as the workers want us to".

The fight against Vestas began on July 20 when the multinational wind turbine firm — despite increasing its profits by 70% in just the first three months of this year and awarding 13 of its directors a huge £9 million in bonuses — announced the mass sackings.

The National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said the British government had tried to offer Vestas cash to refit the factory and had even raised the possibility of a government "takeover", but the company refused. This suggested Vestas may intend to restart production when it is considered profitable enough.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said there should be an immediate investigation into the company's activities. "It appears ... Vestas kicked the legs from under a perfectly viable rescue deal which could have saved the factory."

Crow said: "Everyone 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."

[Abridged from the August 7

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