Over 250 Vestas workers, supporters and activists gathered in St Thomas's Square in Newport, the Isle of Wight, today to show Vestas management and the government that their campaign for jobs and justice for Vestas workers is far from over.
The rally was led by Vestas workers who had occupied the factory for two and a half weeks in protest at the closure of their factory and the loss of 600 jobs. They ended their occupation yesterday.
Mike, one of the workers, told the rally, “We have shown that ordinary people can stand up and make a difference. I'm not an eco-warrior. I'm just a normal guy standing up for my family and for the islan'ds economy.
“The closure doesn't just affect us, it affects the whole island. That's why it's so important for us to stay organised. We nee to put pressure on the government and on the council of the Isle of Wight to save these jobs.”
Many Vestas workers spoke at the rally and thanked people for their support. Mark Smith told the crowd, “Don't allow yourselves to be bullied by management. We've shown that, even if they try to stop you from organising, you still can.”
Workers from different unions joined the march to back the Vestas workers, including from the GMB, Unison and RMT unions, as well as environmental campaigners.
Jonathan Neale from the Campaign Against Climate Change said, “All over the country people are facing a similar situation and this struggle has been an inspiration to them.
“The national day of action on Wednesday needs to be just that – a national one. We need to see, in towns and cities all over the country, solidarity action with the Vestas workers.”
People marched out of the square and, instead of taking the usual route of previous demonstrations, they marched onto the dual carriageway and took over a lane, chanting, “What do we want? Nationalisation! When do we want it? Now!” Passing cars honked their horns in support.
Justin, a Vestas worker, said, “The government has to start listening. There's been plenty of talk but what we need now is action.”
As the march came towards the industrial estate where the Vestas factory sits, workers led the demonstrators round the back of the Vestas factory and onto the site.
People marched to the front of the factory, which had been out of bounds because of a fence, and held a temporary sit-in in front of the doors. They demanded that the manager come out and address the workers.
There is a meeting for all workers on the Isle of Wight tomorrow evening to discuss the next stages of the campaign and to build for the national day of action on Wednesday.