A "possession order" has been granted against protesters still camping on the roundabout outside the main Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight, but they say they will continue their fight to win redundancy money for the workers who occupied the factory in July-August.
Workers occupied the wind turbine blade factory was occupied from 20 July to 7 August to stop job cuts - and succeeded in delaying them - and then blockaded the factory's "marine gate", to stop removal of wind turbine blades still stored there, until 22 September.
Since 22 September protesters have continued to camp on the roundabout outside the factory's front gate.
A "possession order" has been granted against them, but they say they will continue fighting to win the redundancy money denied to eleven of the occupiers by Vestas bosses.
Friday, 27th November, 2009 at 2:25 pm, Isle of Wight
As we left the Vestas Roundabout, the eviction of protesters who had set up camp four months ago was almost complete.
Following the arrival of bailiffs at just before 11am, occupiers were left to hastily pack away their belongings. Sometime after midday, bailiffs got their gloves on and started removing items and placing them at the side of the road.
Tents and belongings not already moved by the occupiers were recorded being removed by bailiffs, folded up and packed away into black bags.
A short while into the eviction process, we and the other media (photographer from the CP and Emma Filo from IW Radio) were told that we had to leave the site. The bailiffs stated they were within their rights to remove us under the high court writ, as it was designated to persons unknown and their jobs was to remove all people from the site.
We weren’t happy about having to leave and managed to convince the bailiff that he should allow the press to stay and report the eviction as the story has been in the public interest for over four months. Eventually he agreed and we were all able to continue with our reporting.
Marina Pepper, one of the main spokespeople of the campaign was arrested for obstruction and left peacefully with police, but only after making a sprint around the roundabout for her kettle (pics to follow).
Dave Arbuthnott (Arbo) had climbed onto the roof of the kitchen structure in a final attempt to protest against the eviction. He sat on the roof for some time before the police advised him that he would be arrested for obstruction if he did not come down, after bailiffs failed in convincing him to do so. He decided to retreat and set about packing away his belongings.
The eviction was good natured and went off very peacefully. Occupiers of the roundabout complied with the request and managed to pack away tents etc in the intermittent strong winds and rain.
As we left there was just the kitchen structure left to be dismantled, which we assume will be piled at the side of the road along with many of the other items.
This may be the end of a chapter for many, but the Vestas’ workers who have still not received their redundancy pay because they protested about losing their jobs, will continue fighting for what they believe is rightfully theirs.
There’ll be interviews, photos and videos to follow.
The “magic roundabout” came into being over four months ago to maintain the 24 hour soldiarity picket and as a place to house the solidarity activists who were arriving on the Island with their tents and camping gear. Very soon, with the help of a band of practically minded Climate Campers the camp was operating with a functioning kitchen, sound system, wood burner and water supply. Over the next four months, the arse-end of this grey, lifeless industrial estate became alive with the colour, music and vibrancy of working-class solidarity.
As far as possible, the roundabout exemplified ecological principles, absorbing and recycling the bounty from a conspicuously wasteful industrial estate. The nearby curtain and blind wholesalers were a source of banner making materials, high-viz vests from a neighbouring factory became “legal observer” uniforms and a local warehouse provided a regular supply of wooden pallets.
On the day the Vestas workers were evicted from the factory, they returned to the roundabout in the evening with the message “Phase 1 of the campaign is over, onward with Phase 2”. Over the next few days and nights, the occupiers joined their comrades on the roundabout and planned the next steps. The second phase came to an end when over 120 police officers were drafted in from the mainland making 13 arrests in the name of Vestas profit-margins.
At this stage Workers’ Liberty supporters argued that the camp should be wound up and all energy should go into building the island labour movement through the traditional channels of the trades councils. However, some solidarity activists wished to maintain the roundabout and build it as a centre for organising.
They embarked on a massive tidying operation clearing up after the 100s of activists who had passed through that summer. They erected a marquee and built a 12 seater dining area, solar shower, solar power source and radical library. They ran meetings, film nights and helped to maintain interest in the Vestas campaign in the local press. Locals visited the roundabout and got news of the ongoing campaign. Their presence looks like it had an effect in postponing job losses at the Guritt factory, which used to supply Vestas with resin. They were also an annoyance for Vestas and the local council who had to maintain 24 hour security at great cost.
On hearing of the eviction an ex-Vestas worker commented: “I wish to thank the many people who have come to our island and fought for our jobs. I was wary of these people at first but after taking the time to get to know them found them to be decent caring people. I applaud the campaigners, salute the occupiers and thank the organisations who stepped in and helped when many ‘Islanders’ chose to ignore what was happening.”
In the words of one magic roundabout activist “We have a lot to celebrate, even if the owners have got a court order to have the camp removed. The camp has been a mainstay of the campaign by Vestas workers for their jobs, and a place where valuable lessons in campaigning, politics and camaraderie have been gained. Not everyone gets it, of course, but if you spent time there this summer and autumn you will know what we mean!”
This may be the end of a chapter for many, but the Vestas’ workers who have still not received their redundancy pay because they protested about losing their jobs, will continue fighting for what they believe is rightfully theirs. They continue to need our solidarity.