Three activists from Workers’ Climate Action and the AWL visited the Isle of Wight on 15-18 June because we had heard that the Vestas plant there — the only wind turbine blade factory in Britain — faces closure.
After four days’ work, we have a meeting set up, sponsored by Cowes Trades Council, to launch a campaign against the closure. We will be going back to the Isle of Wight, with other activists we hope, to build for that meeting in the week leading up to 3 July.
Our first contact was with officers of Cowes Trades Council. They, in turn, put us in touch with Geoff Lumley, the only Labour councillor on the island, and through him we met local environmental activists.
There are only 15 members of the union, Unite, at Vestas, out of nearly 600 workers, and the union is not recognised. However, we went to the factory at shift changes, talked to workers, and made contacts.
Our hope is that with the weight of the national environmental movement behind them, and with an energetic local campaign, the workers at Vestas can gain the confidence to take radical action to save both their jobs and one of the most important industries in the UK.
The planned closure is further proof that the capitalist system is not fundamentally interested in making the necessary industrial changes to stop climate change. Vestas is content to continue to make huge profits (£350 million in 2008). It plans to move blade production to the USA, where there is more money to be made from government subsidies and a bigger market for wind turbines.
It is up to workers in the industry, with environmental and socialist activists, to ensure that the sustainable industries survive and expand, and that they are run for the benefit of all, not for the profit of the few.
The embryonic campaign around the closure of Vestas provides an opportunity to show that climate change is a class issue, that workers’ self-organisation and participation can and must focus on securing a stable ecology.