More than 400 people rallied outside the occupied Vestas wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight tonight after a march from Newport town centre. The workers have now been in occupation for four days in the fight to save their jobs.
Ed Rooksby, a teacher in the NUT union from near Southampton, told Socialist Worker, “I’m actually on holiday but I’m a socialist so I thought I ought to turn up. The government proclaims its green credentials. If it’s serious about them it should nationalise the factory rather than let it got to the wall.”
Andy Woodhouse, a Newport water worker and a member of the GMB union, said, “Six hundred jobs is a huge loss to the island. We don’t get many people protesting here. A lot of people on the Isle of Wight are retired and affluent. That’s why we’ve got a Tory council and a Tory MP. To get this many on a protest at such sort notice is great. It shows that some of us do care.”
Matt, an unemployed person from Portsmouth, said, “I’ve come to show solidarity. It’s about renewable energy. We need more wind power not less. And it’s about 600 jobs.”
As the march moved off protesters chanted, “Save our Vestas. Save our jobs.” One protester held up a cardboard wind turbine. Placards read, “More wind, less talk”, and, “Green jobs now.”
Cathy Tyler, a charity worker from Wooton on the island, said, “The government will save the banks but not the industries that can save the planet. The occupation is the best thing that’s happened to the Isle of Wight in the 27 years I’ve lived here. We’ve surely got the whole of the Isle of Wight’s socialist movement here today.”
Cohan Tyler, who is 14, said “I went up to London with my cousin to a meeting about Vestas. I’m trying to get others at my school to support the campaign for weeks. It’s an amazing cause. It’s 600 jobs here and it’s the only wind turbine factory in the whole country. It’s about protecting our future.”
Steve, a Vestas worker who has been elected to represent the occupation, told the rally, “Management have tried to bully the occupation into submission but it isn’t moving. They tried to starve them out but that didn’t work. They cut the power, but that disb’t work. Our message is, ‘No more games.’ We’re hitting the company where it hurts—in the pocket.”
Since the occupation began Vestas’s share price has fallen almost 7 percent. Management have asked the occupiers for files from inside. The occupiers have said they’ll pass the files over in exchange for one hot meal. Throughout the rally the crowd broke into chants of, “One hot meal.”
Mark Chiverton, from Isle of Wight Unison union, told the crowd, “Everyone is inspired by the people on the plant’s balcony. I know how hard it is to get people to take action. Three weeks ago I was quite sceptical about the idea of an occupation. But each night support for this campaign is growing. This is a message that is going out worldwide.”
Mark Stringer, who had been one of the occupiers, told the rally, “I’ve got involved because I knew my chances of getting another job on the island were next to zero. I’ve got a family to feed. The atmosphere inside is one of solidarity. The management tried their bullying tactics but after a while they saw the occupation was there to stay.”
Maddie, from the Camp for Climate Action, said, “Moving to low carbon energy source like wind is vital if we’re going to tackle climate change. But there’s a question where that change is going to come from. This occupation shows that it needs to come from the workers not the bosses.”
Workers and supporters believe that the occupation can win. Another demonstration is planned for 6pm on Saturday, outside the factory. Campaigners are urging people to come to the Isle of Wight to join the constant camp and the picket outside the plant.