Vestas: how it happened

Submitted by AWL on 30 July, 2009 - 3:03

28 April: Vestas bosses announce that they are ditching previous plans to re-fit the Isle of Wight plants for more advanced production methods, and will close them instead. They blame “a lack of political initiatives to support the wind industry” and say that “orders have ground to a halt” in Northern Europe. At this stage, however, they also say that it is “too early to say whether orders wwill pick up enough to rescue the plant”.

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. They receive help from local Trades Council activists and the one local Labour councillor. Later other activists from Workers’ Climate Action join them.

3 July: Workers’ Climate Action and Cowes Trades Council call a public meeting to discuss campaigning against the closure. One hundred attend.

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.

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 in Newport.

From Tuesday 21 July: Vestas bosses tells all other workers, at the smaller Venture Quays factory (East Cowes) as well as St Cross, to stay home (on full pay) instead of working, although there are blades to the value of three quarters of a million pounds yet to be finished within the factories. Workers outside the St Cross plant 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 RMT, FBU, Unison, CWU, GMB, PCS, and many other groups.

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). Vestas bosses start supplying food to the workers, but serve summonses for a court hearing on 29 July for a possession order. Police tactics change. 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 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.

Thursday 30 July: Was scheduled to be the last day of normal operation at the Vestas factories on the Isle of Wight, though not their physical closure (a “clean-up team” was already booked to work in August).

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