Socialist Worker

Vestas is humbled in court confrontation

by Tom Walker in Newport, Isle of Wight
Issue No. 2162

The Vestas occupation won a massive victory in court this morning as workers got a guarantee that their occupation can continue for at least another five days – and possibly longer.

After a march from the occupied factory to the court joined a mass protest of five hundred people outside the court and a tangle of legal arguments, the case was adjourned until Tuesday 4 August. Workers had thought they might face eviction today after 10 days in occupation.

Mark Smith, one of the occupiers, said, “We were ready to keep fighting if we came out but to still be here is amazing. It gives us more time to build this campaign even bigger.”

The occupiers – who were defended in court by James Fieldsend – cannot be evicted until Vestas bosses get a possession order for the factory. But judge White at Newport county court ruled that the occupiers had not had enough notice of the court case.

The court heard that Mark Smith was the only worker who was given the summons with Vestas assuming he would tell the others. In court papers, Vestas named 13 individuals and 'persons unknown' it believed had occupied the office space in the building.

However, Adam Rosenthal, representing Vestas, conceded the company could not be sure who had barricaded themselves inside the factory.

The judge added he was 'distinctly uncomfortable' with the way the company was seeking to bring proceedings, which he described as an attempt to 'get around the rules'.

'I am not satisfied that any named person other than Mark Smith has been personally named,' he said.

“They are not persons unknown,” said judge White. “The claimant knows who they are and once you know who the persons unknown are you have to name them.”

“One does expect the claimant to get their facts straight,” the judge said at one point during the proceedings.

The judge also ruled against the other argument put by Vestas’ lawyer. Urging the judge to use his discretion to fast-track the possession order, Rosenthal for the company said 'emotions are running high' at the factory and there was a real risk of disturbance.

Judge White dismissed that argument, saying: 'I see no evidence of any threat of violence to property or person by reason of the individuals who are occupying the property remaining there.'

He added, “Today is not the day a decision on a possession order will be made.”

Noise from the protest outside echoed around the courtroom.

After the hearing, occupying worker Mark Smith told Socialist Worker, “The judgement shows that if we stand together we can stand up to companies like Vestas.”

The crowd outside roared as the news was announced and again chanted, “We are winning!”

Protest at the next hearing 10am Tuesday 4 August outside Newport county court. The occupation and camp continue with a rally at 6pm every day outside the factory.

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