Vestas: the story so far....

Submitted by Newcastle on 20 August, 2009 - 9:16

28 April: After telling workers, in 2008, that they planned to re-fit the factories in 2009 to produce larger blades with a better production process, the Danish based multinational Vestas announces instead that it will close the Isle of Wight wind turbine blade factories, the only such factories in Britain..

15 June: Workers’ Liberty activists arrive in the Isle of Wight to start leafleting and talking to workers about the Vestas factory closure and ways to resist it.

3 July: Workers’ Climate Action and Cowes Trades Council call a public meeting to discuss campaigning against the closure of the Vestas factories.

Two weeks starting 6 July: A minority of workers begin to discuss action. As the conversations spread, the idea grows that there are alternatives. Meanwhile public campaigning against the closure continues on the streets of the Isle of Wight.

Wednesday 15 July: Government publishes a White Paper calling for 7000 extra wind turbines in Britain in coming years. (3000 are currently operating or being installed).

Monday 20 July: Vestas management hear about the conversations and try to forestall action by threatening workers. 7.30pm: workers decide that they should move before the management try further pre-emptive action, and occupy the St Cross factory.

From Tuesday 21 July: Vestas bosses tell all other workers, at Venture Quays as well as St Cross, to stay home (on full pay) instead of working. Workers rally outside the St Cross front gage. They elect a committee to organise their campaign. Management make repeated empty threats against the occupiers. They also refuse to let in food. Support comes in from FBU, Unison, CWU, GMB, PCS, and especially from the leaders of the Portsmouth RMT branch, which organies the Portsmouth-IoW ferries.

Wednesday 22 July: A Families and Community Campaign is set up to back the Vestas workers.

Thursday 23 July: The Vestas story reaches the front page of the national press (the Independent). Ed Miliband writes an evasive letter to the Guardian about Vestas. Vestas bosses start supplying food to the workers, but serve summonses for a court hearing on 29 July for a possession order. RMT leader Bob Crow comes to Vestas and offers RMT lawyers to help the workers.

Friday 24 July: Many Vestas workers join RMT so that it can represent them with the Vestas bosses. 300 people march from Newport town centre to the St Cross factory.

Saturday 25 July: Vestas bosses start giving the occupiers hot food.

Tuesday 28 July: Vestas bosses issue notices of dismissal to eleven workers.

Wednesday 29 July: Court hearing on Vestas bosses' claim for a possession order. Case adjourned to 4 August.

Saturday 1 August: Police and Vestas bosses allow RMT to take extra food into the factory. (However, this proves to be a one-off).

Monday 3 August: Workers' Climate Action activists show solidarity with workers by supergluing themselves to block the entrance to the government Department of Energy and Climate Change. The TUC puts out a statement calling on the Government to intervene to save jobs.

Tuesday 4 August: Sixteen union leaders publish a stronger statement of support: leaders of Unite, Unison, GMB, and CWU are not among the sixteen. Vestas bosses win their "possession order" in court. Activists occupy the roof of the Vestas factory at Venture Quays in East Cowes, and use its prominent waterfront position to display solidarity banners.

Thursday 6 August: Climate change minister Joan Ruddock meets RMT and Vestas workers (and TUC and Unite reps). She offers warm words but no commitment; claims that Government tried to buy the Vestas factories, but Vestas refused. Government agrees to continue talks with RMT.

Friday 7 August: Occupiers evicted, despite Workers' Climate Action mobilising 25 activists from London to join the Isle of Wight picket from 3am. Occupiers remain defiant. At the 6pm rally at the St Cross factory gate, they call for the pickets to be continued and built up into a blockade.

Saturday 8 August: Workers and supporters, marching from a rally in Newport town centre, briefly reoccupy the factory grounds.

Sunday 9 August: Well-attended meeting of Vestas workers and supporters in Newport debates strategy for the next phase.

Monday 10 August: Workers and supporters start a presence at the back gate of the Newport factory. Vestas bosses responded by erecting fences all across the back of the factory.

Wednesday 12 August: National day of action. Five rallies on the Isle of Wight; meetings and protests all over the country; Workers' Climate Action activists occupy South East England Development Authority offices.

Friday 14 August: The East Cowes occupiers come down from the roof. Back pay and redundancy money goes into workers' bank accounts. The workers continue the campaign with a continued picket, a demonstration in Ryde on 15 August, and plans for a national day of action on 17 September.

Monday 17 August: Vestas brings in its "clean-up" team, but workers picket the factory gates in protest. Workers and supporters stage "sit-in picnic" protest at local Job Centre

Tuesday 18 August: Vestas bosses announced their latest financial results. They expect revenue to rise by 20% to 7.2 billion euros this year, and the operating margin (of profit) to be between 11% and 13%.