The campaign against the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight swung into action with mass leafleting and petitioning last Saturday.
Vestas, based in Newport, is the Britain’s only wind turbine manufacturer – and the largest employer on the island.
Workers and campaign supporters took to the streets to get the word out about their fight. Trade unionists, socialists, environmental activists and others travelled over from the mainland for the day to help.
Ian, who works at the factory, said, “Everyone on the island will be affected by this. We’re being thrown into a terrible job market. Families will be forced to move away to find jobs.
“But it’s not just about us – it’s a global thing. We need alternative energy. Closing the only blade manufacturer in the country is criminal.”
The company has said the factory will shut down at the end of the month with the loss of more than 500 jobs. One hundred jobs will also go at a distribution plant in Southampton.
Within a few hours, more than 500 people had signed the petition to protect these jobs. Many who stopped to sign up said they had a friend or relative who works at Vestas.
Vestas worker Dave said, “Closing Vestas will destroy the island’s economy. We already have the some of the highest unemployment in the UK, and the lowest average wage.
“There’s a factory opposite that makes all our resins – now they’re threatening redundancies.”
Workers at Vestas are ready to resist the closure and job losses. They want to take radical action.
More than 3,000 people are unemployed on the Isle of Wight and the closure of Vestas will see that increase by 20 percent. The government has admitted that the knock-on effects will see the number of people on the dole rise even more.
Yet Vestas’s global profits increased by 51 percent last year to £575 million.
On the day the company announced it was shutting the factory, it also told the media it had raised more than £700 million from a share issue.
Workers are angry that the company is throwing them on the scrapheap for the sake of feeding its massive profits.
“This is the most efficient factory they own,” says Dave. “But they’ve shifted production to the US and China. They say there’s no demand here, even though we were shipping blades all around the world.”
The government done nothing, despite its promises to support green jobs.
Jonathan Neale, of the Campaign Against Climate Change, told the assembled activists, “Gordon Brown found £400 billion for the bankers and he found it in a week.”
“All the politicians say we have to go something about climate change. It’s time they did it,” says Ian.
“We want to fight. People are up for it. Gordon Brown better get his wallet out.”
Public meetings are taking place about Vestas. Yoma Cafe, Southampton 7.30pm on Thursday this week. Portsmouth City Unison are backing a meeting at Central Library, Guildhall Square at 8pm, on 20 July.
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