Socialist Worker

Vestas workers win battle of the blades

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2168

Vestas workers scored a victory in their campaign to save their jobs when they stopped the wind turbine firm from moving blades out of the factory last week.

More than 30 workers and supporters mobilised to blockade the “marine gate” of the site in Newport, Isle of Wight, in the early hours of Friday morning.

Vestas worker Colin Hugill told Socialist Worker, “They had the barge ready, but when Vestas found out how many people we had brought down it looks like they decided not to try to come here.”

When workers occupied the factory in July against its closure there were 11 wind turbine blades still inside, each measuring up to 50 metres in length and together worth an estimated £750,000.

The company’s valuable moulds also remained.

Now, a month since the end of the occupation, Vestas has still not managed to move any of them.

Last week the company sent two specially-designed barges – known as the “blade runners” – to collect the blades from the factory.

But the workers were one step ahead.

They found out about the barges and mobilised to block the path between the plant and the River Medina.

The support camp on the “magic roundabout” outside the factory became a fixture during the occupation.

When the campers heard about the plans to move the blades, many of them moved to the back gate to form the core of the new blockade.

There they put up a banner asking, “Whose factory?”

The second camp is now planning to stay in position to make sure nothing can leave the factory. Police have sent photo­graphers and a patrol boat to monitor the protesters, but have not taken any action so far.

Vestas could attempt to move the blades again on any day at high tide, as long as the weather is not windy.

The barges are ready and waiting across the water in Southampton.

But the shipping time­tables will give the workers at least two hours’ notice of any future attempts to send barges down the river – enough time to mobilise significant numbers of supporters.

Colin says, “We’ve now got a system set up to monitor the situation. We’re even better organised than we were on Friday.”

The workers have also stationed lookouts at the mouth of the river.

These are ready to alert the camp, and have put out pictures of the “blade runners” in case passers-by happen to spot them approaching.

The ongoing blockade gives the workers some extra leverage over Vestas.

On its own the blockade would be a huge achievement.

Combined with the political pressure on the government that will be caused by lots of action taking place on the fast-approaching national day of action on Thursday 17 September, the impact could be explosive.

“We’ve been speaking to workers across the island who intend to support us and come to the march on the day,” says Colin. “The bus workers and the post workers have been on strike – we’re supporting each other.

“Then there are the meetings going on across the country. With everyone putting pressure on the government and on Vestas, anything could happen.”


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