Socialist Worker

Power of solidarity can blow away Vestas bosses

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2165

Protesters on the Isle of Wight in East Cowes (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Protesters on the Isle of Wight in East Cowes (Pic: Socialist Worker)


A hurricane of solidarity with the Vestas workers hit towns across Britain on their first national day of action on Wednesday of last week.

Five days after the end of the workers’ two-week factory occupation, this was the beginning of a new stage in the campaign to save their jobs at a wind turbine plant in Newport, the Isle of Wight.

From London to Liverpool, Portsmouth to Plymouth and Newport to Nottingham, campaigners took to the streets, holding stalls, meetings and rallies.

In London the PCS civil service workers’ union held a lunchtime meeting where Vestas worker Doug spoke, getting a massive welcome.

Doug said, “We need people to do everything they can, from making banners and hanging them out of workplace windows to collecting money.”

And the next day Vestas worker Ian spoke to more than 400 people at a national meeting for postal workers’ reps in the CWU union.

In Cardiff a meeting raised £100 for the workers. Local RMT union members pledged to do collections in their workplaces, and the branch agreed to match the money raised up to £500.

And in Glasgow a Vestas worker and a worker from the threatened Johnnie Walker whisky plant spoke to an audience of over 70 people at a Fight for the Right to Work meeting.

People in 25 towns and cities took action in solidarity with the fight at Vestas (see » Vestas solidarity round-up).

Support

The national action shows just how much support is out there for the Vestas workers.

After the Glasgow meeting, Vestas worker Richard told Socialist Worker, “I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I was inspired.

“Listening to other people who are fighting their own fights shows you that you’re not alone, even if you feel downtrodden all the time in your job.”

Vestas workers travelled the country to lead the action and speak to meetings and rallies. And they were central to the day on the Isle of Wight, where the largest of the factories is based.

On the island there were rallies, leafleting and petitioning, with 100 people helping with stalls in Newport, Cowes, Sandown and Ryde.

Vestas worker Chris Robson, who was petitioning in Ryde, said, “I was down at the factory while they were occupying, going to the rallies and supporting them.

“Now we’re out here on the streets and I’m really surprised at how much support we’ve had.

“The company was hoping we’d all go away after the occupation ended.

“But we haven’t.”

The action across the country was organised with less than a week’s notice. This shows the huge potential for the next national day of action on Thursday 17 September to be even bigger.

Every trade unionist can raise money and try to pass motions in union branches—and that raises the issue of other forms of solidarity.

The next day of action can up the stakes if organised workers come out to support the Vestas workers.

“Down tools for half an hour or an hour,” says Vestas occupier Seb Sikora. “Put a banner outside—not only for us but for everyone who’s struggling to save their jobs.

“If we keep doing that, it could have a tremendous effect.”

Some PCS members have suggested that everyone in their office could turn off the computers and the phones at the same time.

If management complain, they will say they are all taking their break.

The Campaign Against Climate Change is producing a teachers’ pack so teachers can give lessons about Vestas in schools on the day.

Other workers can organise whatever solidarity fits in their own workplaces.

The 17 September date has been chosen to give university and college students time to build solidarity at the start of term—and to give other workers time to organise.

With the occupation over, Vestas bosses will be hoping they can quietly slink off into the shadows.

But together we can build a campaign that shows what workers’ strength and solidarity in every town and city can do.

This fight will not be won on the Isle of Wight—it is a political and industrial battle focused not just on Vestas but on the government and the mad system that produces for profit not need.

That is why Vestas workers are right to tour Britain drumming up support for the campaign.

The workers are planning to demonstrate outside the TUC congress when climate change minister Ed Miliband speaks.

They are also set to join the protest outside the Labour Party conference in Brighton on 27 September.

The whole trade union movement should support the Vestas workers’ demand for nationalisation.

As they meet other groups of workers the Vestas occupiers are spreading confidence and militancy everywhere they go.

Their campaign can be a flashpoint to show workers everywhere that they don’t have to put up with sackings and bullying—we can fight and win.

Protesters on the Isle of Wight in Ryde (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Protesters on the Isle of Wight in Ryde (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Vestas and Johnnie Walker workers at solidarity meeting in Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Vestas and Johnnie Walker workers at solidarity meeting in Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)



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News
Tue 18 Aug 2009, 17:47 BST
Issue No. 2165
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