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Isle of Wight MPs Speech in the Recess Debate
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The just struggle of the Vestas workers is against the right of the monopolies to impose their dictate and for the right of the working class and people to decide on the direction of the economy.
In taking action they have shown the importance of workers getting together to discuss how to safeguard their future and to take a stand in defence of their livelihoods. That their struggle has won widespread and growing support amongst wide sections of the people and within the workers movement is a vindication of their initial stand not to be treated as an expendable item in the calculations of the Vestas monopoly.
Their stand has also put into the spotlight the way the government pays the rich and takes no responsibility for the wellbeing of the working people. Large sums of money were handed out to Vestas by the government to set up production on the Isle of Wight. Now that Vestas is being offered more money by, it appears, the US administration to move to Colorado, it is putting forward all kinds of justifications for closing down the plant in Britain, while the government claims it cannot interfere in the workings of the market.
The stand of the workers has also put on the agenda the necessity for workers to get further organised to defend their interests and the interests both of the local economy and of the socialised economy as a whole. It has put on the agenda the necessity for workers to take the lead in putting forward solutions to leading society out of the crisis and to rely on their own initiative.
The workers are right to demand that Vestas keep the factory open on the Isle of Wight. If the Vestas capitalists declare that they must go, then they must be held to account. They must pay back the funds that were doled out to them by the government, and the government must further demand that they put back into the local economy what they have taken out and provide the funds and the plant for the workers to continue to produce wind turbines as necessary for the needs of the economy as a whole.
The stand of the workers has also exposed the anti-worker nature of the state and the way the legal system serves the owners of property and capital. The Vestas capitalists feel that they are perfectly within their rights to throw hundreds of workers out of production, while the workers have no rights to occupy their place of work or participate in deciding their own future. They appeal to the courts to evict the workers, while the police are intent on protecting property rights while attempting to starve the workers into submission. This cannot be allowed to succeed!
The struggle of the Vestas workers in defence of their livelihoods and to ensure the benefit of the local and national economies is just. WDIE calls on everyone to work to ensure its success.
Stop Paying the Rich!
Keep Vestas Open!
Success to the Struggle of the Vestas Workers!
Campaign against Euro-federalism, July 23, 2009
The Vestas management is taking advantage and making full use of the market place dominated by the "free movement of capital, goods, services and labour" within the European Union. According to EU legislation a company or employer can move their investment to any place that makes the largest profit without any regard to what happens to the work force or the wider social and local economic consequences. The European (Union) Court of Justice has made full use of its powers to rule against trade union rights and workers in struggle. This includes collective bargaining, the right to strike and right to work.
The Government must put in place:
The Campaign against Euro-federalism fully supports the action of the workers at Vestas plant on the Isle of Wight.
Around a hundred people turned up to the demonstration organised at short notice by the Campaign Against Climate Change (CCC) following the decision by some workers at Vestas Blades to occupy the factory. Speakers included CCC National Coordinator Phil Thornhill, Darren Johnson from the Green Party, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes and representatives from the PCS, Unison, Workers' Climate Action (WCA) and others supporting the Vestas workers.
Speakers condemned the actions of the police on the Isle of Wight who have been aggressively policing the occupation and preventing supporters taking food to the workers in the factory.
The attitude of the government to the workers at Vestas was contrasted to the incredible amounts of public money given to support the banks.
Simon Hughes gave a very assured and theatrical speech but was the subject of vigorous heckling when he stated that nationalisation was not the answer for Vestas, making it clear he wanted to see the workforce or some other management being supported to take over the operation. At one point the meeting began to resemble the Radio 4 Today programme as he was repeatedly asked if he supported the occupation at by workers at Vestas and repeatedly gave a positive answer.
At the end of the event volunteers tried to spell out the message 'SAVE VESTAS' with their bodies on the road outside the Department of Energy & Climate Change. It wasn't that easy to read, but possibly Mr Miliband might have got the message from the rest of the event. Cynics among us might feel that the Ministry is more about promoting climate change than opposing it from some of the governments actions or failure to act so far.
A collection was taken at the meeting to support the workers. The WCA leaflet asks for donations, payable to Ryde and East Wight Trades Union Council, to be sent to: Tony Kelly, Secretary, REWTUC, 22 Church Lane, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33, and for messages of solidarity and offers of practical support to email@example.com
(Source: UK Indymedia Newswire)
by GreenWire.org.uk. July 26, 2009
The global green movement appears to be mobilising behind the Isle of Wight Vestas protesters as messages of support for the sit-in strikers flood in from around the world.
And for the first time, green seems to be galvanising with red, as members of the mainstream environment movement are sharing the same platform as labour activists.
Jan Hägglund, Ingrid Eriksson and Anna Hedlund, members of Umeå City Council, Sweden, wrote into the protest website with the message: "If the Government stands idly by and fails to save the Vestas factory it will be abandoning its responsibilities on two counts: First, in the immediate term, allowing the loss of 600 jobs in a time of deep recession.
"Second, in the longer term, failing to commit to the green manufacturing and energy which are vital if we are to stand any chance of fighting the threat of climate change. This double dereliction of duties would prove that the Governments green talk is nothing more than windy rhetoric. We can no longer afford empty promises.
"We must not forget that long before the economic crisis, we faced a global environmental crisis. Now, as we face both disasters, the Vestas factory is a real beacon of hope: a model for the way in which Britains manufacturing industry could be positively and sustainably rebuilt to provide proven, environmentally-sound energy sources for the future.
"I fully support the actions of the workers and urge people to lend their voices to this vital campaign to save these jobs, and save the planet too."
"To the workers at the Vestas wind turbine factory in Newport (Isle of Wight) we fully support your struggle. Europe, Britain and the world need more workers producing wind power plants not less.
"Your struggle is ours - Red (for the struggle) and green (for the environment)."
Kim Muller, also from Sweden, writes: "More than 30 labour and climate activists protested yesterday at Vestas' northern European headquarters against the closure of the Newport plant.
"Vestas did not want to meet us and closed their office for the day, but we gave them some leaflets in their mailbox instead. After that we handed out some leaflets to the public instead."
Andreas Payiatsos of Athens-based socialist organisation Xekinima said: "We unite our voice with yours to protest against the loss of 600 jobs at the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight. We have been informed of the companys decision to move the production of wind turbine blades to America and we agree that this can only be met with solidarity and struggle by the workers.
"The redundancy package of less than £1,000 for each worker is insulting and, of course, cannot solve any of the financial problems the sacked workers will face in the next period.
"What happened to you is happening to workers all across Europe and the globe, with the bosses using the financial crisis to attack workers rights and to ensure that they can continue to make huge profits. This is particularly the case in our country, Greece, where unemployment, poverty and inequality are skyrocketing."
Members of Gegenstrom, from Berlin, Germany, wrote: "We hope you are in good spirits, that support from outside is growing and that you push on!
"We call ourselves Gegenstrom (countercurrent), an activist group for climate justice in Berlin/Germany. We consider ourselves to be part of the international climate camp movement, which started in the UK in 2005. Thus we are happy to be inspired by struggles from the British Isles again.
"Your collective action is a huge encouragement to those who believe, that the way forward to social and climate justice will have to be brought about by people taking their own lives in their hands.
"We hope you succeed to continue the production under public and workers' control."
A further message from a C J Park in South Korea reads: "I am writing in solidarity with your struggle, you are not alone in fighting against the bosses and the capitalist system to save jobs.
"In South Korea, auto-workers at Ssangyong Motors are currently occupying the factory to save their jobs. Its a sick comedy to hear that the company is spending about $1 million a day to hire scabs and thugs to destroy the strikes, which have lasted for a month now.
"The sense of betrayal these workers got is deathly.
"Many governments all over the world spent astronomical amounts of money (peoples tax money) to save the banks and financial institutions last year. And what did banks do with the money?
"The South Korean government is planning to spend a huge amount of money to dig up the rivers around the country to build canals which, many predict, will destroy the ecological system.
"But the governments and bosses are refusing to spend a dime in saving peoples jobs, precious jobs like yours that contribute to the saving of the planet.
"It is the time to show who is really the boss of this world and this system. That is you, the workers, fighting to protect your jobs and lives.
"I will do my best to spread the news to South Korean workers so that you may have direct contact for solidarity. In the meantime, I wish you all the best and victory at the end."
From Australia, Simon Butler of the Green Left Weekly sent a message of solidarity for the "struggle for green jobs and a safe climate".
In his support message, he added: "We need more jobs like those at
Vestas, not less. Closure of the plant makes absolutely no sense on
economic or ecological grounds.
"We can halt climate change if we take emergency action and force governments to invest heavily in renewable energy. And a green economy will be job-rich.
"But if the decisions about our future are left in the hands of the big party politicians and companies like Vestas, we dont have a hope.
"Thank you for standing up and defending your families, your community and the future of the planet in such an inspirational way. Countless people around the world are watching on in support and gratitude."
Supporter Alex Fountain wrote: "If I wasnt away I would be down on the Isle of Wight in a flash.
"With the threat of climate change looming, closing down a factory that makes wind turbines is crazy and losing 600 jobs in the green sector is a disgrace."
"We need people to run our country who are going to put the needs of the people before profit and to build our society based on social needs.
"The Government has failed us too many times, direct action is increasingly the only solution left. Keep going everyone."
"I cannot mention in words the impact you are going to have from occupying the factory. This is more than just an occupation, its a demonstration of freedom, a stand against the Government and an action for all the children in third world countries that are going to be left starving and homeless because of the effects of climate change."
Christine Lehnert, city councillor of Rostock, Germany, wrote: "I have heard of your struggle for jobs so I want to send you my support.
"The occupation of the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight is the only way to save the jobs. But you should keep in mind that if the private owner is not willing to save your jobs, your plant should be nationalised. You the workers should take over the plant under democratic control and management.
"As far as I am concerned, I will do everything to make your fight for your jobs public in Rostock. We are facing the closure of the shipyards at the moment and the loss of about 2,500 jobs. So your fight can be seen as an example for the workers here in Rostock, too.
"Fighting against job losses and workplace closures is a vital part of campaigning against unemployment also in Rostock, Germany. The Vestas workers, together with those involved in the Lindsey Oil Refinery and Visteon struggles, are setting an important example."
Despite an earlier isolated report of tension between protesters and police, the strike campaign says morale is extremely high and there is a good relationship with officers.
"Everyone is getting along famously," a local report stated. "One things that is impressive about the Vestas sit-in and the rallies that are being held every night is that its all being done with good humour."
Today the protest spreads in Britain as campaigners plan to hand out leaflets at the ground of rugby league club Warrington Wolves, who are sponsored by Vestas, before their match this afternoon against the Salford Reds.
Further protests are planned in Newcastle upon Tyne on Monday and outside the Whitehall offices of the Department for Energy and Climate Change on Tuesday.
Unite the union is urging the government to work with management at Vestas to save Englands only wind turbine manufacturing plants at the Isle of Wight and Southampton which are to close on Friday 24 July, with the loss of 625 jobs and the transfer of production to China and the US.
Unite is supporting Vestas workers in their fight for their future. Not only will 625 workers lose their jobs; the effect on the local community will be devastating. It is not easy for an Island economy to recover from such a serious blow, with up to a quarter of the manufacturing jobs on the island threatened.
If the government is serious about meeting its legally binding target on renewable energy and climate change, and meeting last weeks pledge for 400,000 green jobs, it needs to take action to save England's only wind turbine manufacturing capacity.
The UK has the best "wind resources" in Europe but currently generates just five per cent of electricity from this source, less than most other large economies. The government is legally bound to increase this to 35 per cent by 2020, which will mean a huge market for the type of products currently being made on the Isle of Wight.
John Rowse, Unite national secretary for manufacturing, said: "It is not too late to save these plants. If the government addresses the blockages in the planning system to counter the 'Not-in-my-back-yard 'brigade then there will be massively increased demand for wind turbines.
"We urge the government to match its green rhetoric with action to support green jobs, saving Vestas would send out a clear message that it is serious about saving the environment as well as supporting UK manufacturing."
Unite wants the government to:
Ensure there is sufficient investment in grid expansion;
Consider following the Spanish example of only allowing planning permission for sites, if those turbines are at least in part manufactured in that region. (Using EU social and environmental clauses that make this an entirely legitimate practice);
Introduce feed in tariffs for large scale wind, which have driven rapid expansion of wind energy in most other large economies and at lower cost to the energy consumer than our current system.
The Isle of Wight local government branch is stepping up its green campaigning this week, as it acted to support workers staging a sit-in at the Vestas wind turbine plant on the island.
Two factories that make wind turbines are due to close at the end of July, with production being moved to China and the US with the loss of 525 jobs.
Branch chair Mark Chiverton explains that not only would the job losses be "a disaster for the Isle of Wight economy", it "seems very contradictory at a time when all the talk is about investing in green jobs and increasing green power, to be letting this work be taken away from Europe". Mr Chiverton says that the branch has a "permanent banner outside the factory" where the sit-in is taking place, and has been "trying to provide material support".
And he himself has been interviewed on the radio and addressed a mass rally.
But that isn't all. The branch has "tried to raise green issues in the workplace before, but this is a step up".
Vestas has cited lack of initiative from the government and the planning system as reasons for the closure. However, Unisons green officer David Arnold pointed out that this shows a remarkable lack of foresight.
"Last week's announcement from the government on renewables, coupled with the forthcoming introduction of new planning rules make the future for wind technology in the UK, look pretty good. For Vestas to shut up shop now seems premature to say the least."
Wind turbine workers have shown only public action will deliver green jobs. The same goes for beating climate change
The Isle of Wight is an unlikely setting for an industrial rebellion. It's true Karl Marx was once a regular visitor, but the island's a generally conservative place, better known for sailing than strikes. That changed on Monday, when workers occupied Britain's only major wind-turbine factory in protest at its imminent closure. Tonight they were still there, barricaded in the Newport plant's offices, surrounded by police and security guards, as hundreds of other workers and their supporters demonstrated outside.
Compared with British sit-ins of the past, or the mass confrontations over layoffs in South Korea this week let alone the "bossnappings" and threats to blow up factory equipment that are now becoming common in France the occupation at the plant in Newport might seem a tame affair. Only a couple of dozen workers are actually inside the factory premises, and after an initial appearance by the riot police, there has so far been no physical confrontation.
But the symbolism of the dispute could hardly be clearer. In the very week that the energy secretary Ed Miliband unveiled government plans for hundreds of thousands of new green jobs and a massive expansion of renewable energy, with wind power at its heart, production at the Vestas wind-turbine manufacturing plant ground to a halt. The profitable Danish owner is moving the work to Colorado and closing both its British factories with the loss of more than 600 green jobs citing "lack of demand" and opposition to onshore wind farms in the UK while ministers appear powerless to act.
You couldn't make it up and, not surprisingly, the workforce is demanding the government demonstrates its commitment to a green economy by taking over the plant and restarting production under new management. As a statement yesterday from the occupying workers had it: "If the government can spend billions bailing out the banks and even nationalise them then surely they can do the same at Vestas."
It's not as if attempts to save Vestas can be passed off as throwing money at "sunset" or lame-duck industries. The rapid expansion of low carbon industries is almost universally understood as indispensable to combating climate change and the economy of the future, with government plans to quadruple the number of wind turbines in the next decade effectively guaranteeing rapid market growth. As Caroline Lucas, Green party leader, who is backing the occupation, put it yesterday: "If ministers are serious about delivering what's been promised in the past seven days, why can't they offer loans or guarantees to Vestas to keep production going?"
This is the latest in a series of British and Irish workplace occupations since the economic crisis bit and jobs began to haemorrhage in their hundreds of thousands. At companies such as Waterford Crystal and the Ford car parts supplier Visteon, they have achieved significant results, saving jobs or winning better payoffs. At Vestas, the twin cause of jobs and climate change has created a common front between green activists and trade unionists, who have at other times found themselves at loggerheads over coal, nuclear power or the car industry.
But Vestas is a precarious protest with a political mountain to climb. The workers are defiantly proud of what they make. But it's a largely non-union plant with an anti-union management and a culture of bullying, according to staff. Inside the factory, Vestas miller and radiographer Mark Smith told me yesterday that managers threatened to bring charges and sack anyone who continued the sit-in with the potential loss of several thousand pounds in redundancy money. Only two left. Earlier a private security firm sealed the doors to the occupied offices, cut the phone land lines, and blocked food and drink being sent in by supporters. Another occupying worker, Ian Terry, said they were expecting an eviction injunction, but would "resist without violence we will stay until we're carried out".
There are a string of ways in which the government could keep the Isle of Wight plant in the wind turbine business, from the nationalisation demanded by the workforce to taking a stake on the back of new investment to levering in another company. As Len McCluskey, frontrunner to be elected leader of Britain's largest union Unite next year, argues: "Vestas is the clearest case for government intervention we could wish to see: 700 industrial jobs are being put at risk because of market failure in a sector the government is desperate to see expand. The workers are fighting for our economic and environmental future as well as their jobs." In Scotland, a small turbine Vestas spinoff company was saved from collapse earlier this year by a Scottish government-backed takeover.
Whitehall insiders say the Vestas management wasn't interested in cash support, blaming planning obstruction for the lack of a UK turbine market, and believe the government has already helped secure a Vestas offshore turbine R&D facility at the Isle of Wight site. Miliband, who announced greater control of planning and the dysfunctional privatised energy markets last week to drive green growth, insists: "We don't think the market on its own will deliver the low carbon jobs of the future we need."
Which is putting it mildly. If the closure of the Isle of Wight plant is confirmed, the green manufacturing jobs that ministers have enthused about will indeed be delivered in Denmark and Germany. For all the brave government talk of a new industrial activism, results are so far thin on the ground. Now that a decade of reliance on the private sector has produced one of the lowest rates of renewable power generation in Europe, the need for direct public investment in a green industrial base the commanding heights of the future could not be more pressing.
But even as they inch in the right direction, ministers remain hobbled by New Labour's market-first inheritance. "We're in the hands of the company," as one puts it. That's exactly the problem. When it comes to the global threat of environmental crisis, more than any other issue, private firms cannot be in command. Three years ago, the Stern report described climate change as "the greatest market failure the world has ever seen". Its challenge will not be overcome by private enterprise or the market, or even "ethical" individual responsibility, but by collective public action.
House of Commons debates, 21 July 2009, 6:30 pm
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight, Conservative)
The Isle of Wight shares many problems with the mainland, and has a few of its own. My time as the island's MP is often taken up addressing those matters and explaining their importance to the House and to Ministers. With that in mind, I should like to extend my thanks to certain Ministers for their help this year with issues that have affected my constituents.
Three months ago Minister in the Department of Energy and Climate change, contacted me with news that Vestas was planning to close its operation on the Isle of Wight. Later I wrote to the First Secretary of State, Lord Mandelson, to ask for his support and advice. Vestas is a hugely profitable Danish company and has operations across the world. Until recently, it operated England's only wind turbine manufacturing facility, in my constituency. It was one of only two in Britain the other was a small Scottish Government-funded operation.
Following announcements that Vestas was to shut its Newport operation, several meetings were held. The Minister for the South East, Jonathan Shaw, visited my constituency when he was looking into the matter and ensured that help was given to people seeking new employment. I thank him for his time.
I attended a private meeting with a delegation from the Isle of Wight TUC and others from the island, including the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate, Mark Chiverton. A public meeting was held and it attracted a wide audience from across the island and several people from the mainland. Needless to say, Vestas employees and my constituents generally were dismayed at the company's decision. Vestas announced record profits on the same day that it broke the news that it was closing its facility with the loss of 600 jobs. Vestas is not cutting jobs because of the recession or because of a need to downsize; it has decided that it will be more profitable to manufacture wind turbines in the United States and China, without a thought for the highly skilled workers that it leaves behind.
When it originally came to the island nine years ago it received a £3.5 million Government subsidy, which contributed to the costs it incurred moving from the mainland. Less than a decade later it is leaving, despite that sizable taxpayer-funded financial support. That is why, when public money supports private companies, it is important for it to be directed to companies and businesses that are firmly rooted in the local economy.
Since writing to Lord Mandelson on the matter, I have received no reply. I find it disappointing that he could not find time to speak to me about this important issue, especially when I see him on television daily. However, I believe in giving credit where it is due. I thank the Ministers whom I mentioned for their efforts to convince Vestas to remain open on the island. I understand that all avenues were investigated even subsidies were offered but with no success. Subsidies, it seems, were not what Vestas was after.
Only last week Lord Mandelson was congratulating himself on the launch of the new low carbon industrial strategy. I hope that he considers Vestas to be a serious loss to the future of our low-carbon economy. Government plans state that around 7,000 wind turbines are to be installed across Britain in the coming years. It seems unfortunate that such green technology will have to be manufactured overseas and shipped here.
The loss of those 600 jobs has been a body blow to the island's economy, especially during the recession. Since Monday evening, protesters against the closure of Vestas have been occupying the site. I understand their frustration and I am sympathetic to their concerns. Not only is Vestas leaving the workers high and dry, it is doing so with very poor redundancy packages. Those who have worked at the site for two years or more are entitled to only twice the statutory pay. Those who have worked for less time will receive less still. As I understand it, there were no negotiations with workers on the redundancy packages. I find that totally unacceptable, and it reflects very poorly on a company as profitable as Vestas.
The South East England Development Agency has arranged a series of open days for Vestas staff to help them to find suitable jobs. They are a highly skilled and capable work force and I am confident that they will find work in the near future.
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