The occupation of the Vestas Blades factory in Newport on the Isle of Wight continues. Heavy-handed police involvement has complicated the situation for the occupiers but a constant rolling picket outside has been maintained.
Tuesday 21st July
Police and management appeared to be working extremely closely with one another yesterday, with the factory sealed off by officers - production having been cancelled for the day. Police attempted to persuade workers to go home on an individual basis, using specifically chosen wording to make it appear that they had powers of arrest over anyone attempting to enter the site. When pressured to speak more about this, however, it became clear that they held no legal right to arrest workers who attempted to enter the site. Once the congregation realised their tactics of wordplay and posturing, people stopped drifting off home and stayed to show support for the occupiers. A rolling picket of between 50 and 70 persisted throughout the main part of the day despite rainy conditions. Three workers were able to enter the occupation during a rush by supporters, boosting morale.
At 1:30pm management refused entry of packages containing toilet rolls, toothbrushes and food into the occupation - a decision enforced by the police. Some food, donated by the supporters outside, managed to get into the factory but was "stolen by management" (from a report by the occupiers) At various points during the day the police were challenged as to which legislation they were using to deny entry to the workers while management were free to come and go as they pleased, but no progress was made. The deal which was repeatedly offered to the occupiers was that they could come outside for food at any time, but would not be allowed to go back into the factory.
Negotiations began at 3pm but shortly afterwards management issued an ultimatum to the occupiers: leave within 2 hours or lose your redundancy package. Section 6 was presented to gain squatters' rights for the occupation, which was disregarded with police saying that it was worded incorrectly. Inspector Hoare, who is in charge of the 'Targeted Patrols Unit' on the site, told Mick Tosh of the RMT that there were no plans to enter the occupation by force.
At 10pm, still ith no food having been allowed into the occupation, a police officer was allowed access to check that there had been no criminal damage. This was allowed, with no damage being discovered. In spite of this show of goodwill from the occupiers, the police stated that if the workers did not leave within the hour they would face aggravated trespass changes. With only 5 minutes given to respond, the occupiers "stood firm against this continued attempt at intimidation".
Police continued to make their presence known to the occupiers throughout the night, checking how solid the door wedges were by hammering on them. The factory manager left at 11:30pm.
Wednesday 22nd July
The attempt to get food up to the occupiers had been ongoing since 7:45pm on Tuesday, and enough was deemed to be enough. The new banner "Starved to save our jobs" urged an activist to try to get past the police but was detained for three hours without charge. The police report justified this with the argument that taking food to the occupation was likely to prolong the protest, indirectly encouraging a breach of the peace.
Police have consistently overstepped their remit in their handling of the occupation. Their interests lie solely with the bosses despite their blinkard repetition of the fact that they are acting to protect the public and prevent a breach of the peace. Their method of "protecting" the workers occupying the factory seem to consist of complicity in management's plans to make them as uncomfortable as possible, starving them out if necessary.
What you can do to help
It is imperative that action be taken on the Vestas closure as soon as possible as the occupiers are now facing being unable to get any food or amenities for the duration.
- Continue to bombard Ed Miliband with emails (firstname.lastname@example.org.) and phone calls (01302 875 462, 020 7219 4778). Flood him with calls for the Government to take over the Vestas factory and keep it producing, under new management.
- Visit the campaign blog (sometimes down due to heavy demand) - savevestas.wordpress.com.
- Send messages of support from yourself or your organisation to email@example.com.
- Send a donation from your trade-union or other organisation, or make a personal donation: cheques payable to Ryde and East Wight Trades Union Council, 22 Church Lane, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 2NB
- Organise a visible demonstration of solidarity. Take a photo with a placard that reads 'Save Vestas' and email the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
London demonstration called by Campaign Against Climate Change
Wednesday 22nd July , 6.00 pm, Outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change, No 3 Whitehall Place
(off Whitehall, Charing Cross tube)
Families and communities campaign meeting
Wednesday 22nd July, 6.30-8.30pm at the Methodist Church Hall, Quay Street, Newport. We are setting up a campaign for Vestas workers’ families and Isle of Wight residents to show their support for keeping jobs at Vestas. The families and communities campaign will be very important in keeping spirits up through this stressful time. For more details call 07775 763750.
Isle of Wight demonstration
Come to St Thomas Square in Newport at 5:30pm on Friday 24th July where we will be making a very public display of how we feel about the Vestas closures! Come to the Isle of Wight to support the struggle! Ring 07775763750 for more information.