Vestas factory on Isle of Wight OCCUPIED!

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trenchone
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Jul 29 2009 13:17

Reports from the BBC tend to say of Vestas that workers there "are not members of a union". The RMT say that the "union represents a substantial number of the Vestas workforce." Elsewhere you can read that "The majority of Vestas workers were not previously in a union, but those that were, were in Unite.Unite did virtually nothing to support the occupation. Unite’s assistant general secretary Les Bayliss ... reputedly said of the Vestas membership, 'they’re just twenty members'." It seems that when Bob Crow went down there and promised support the RMT was able to sign up some of the workers. So probably, whether they were in Unite or not, the occupation was started by workers regardless of any union.

Obviously the exact union status of the workers involved is not the most important thing, what's important is that workers are fighting back. However, the main problem is that all the focus has been on the occupation of the factory and this has been reinforced by the 'support' brought by sundry leftist, union and green activists. Typical is the Commune which, before the occupation said "Activists with workplace organising experience, particularly with experience at occupations, are particularly and urgently needed over the next week or two." Such an approach implies a view of workers' struggles where nothing is possible without the assistance of visiting "activists".

Today's court hearing seemed to involve some blunders with the paperwork. This didn't stop Socialist Worker saying "Vestas forced to retreat at court hearing". In reality, unless the occupation is used as a springboard for solidarity action elsewhere, the workers seem isolated and subjected to loads of propaganda aimed at convincing them that the occupation on its own will be enough to keep the factory open.

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Choccy
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Jul 29 2009 16:28

Vestas eviction adjourned til next Tuesday
bbc

posi
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Jul 29 2009 19:36
Quote:
Typical is the Commune which, before the occupation said "Activists with workplace organising experience, particularly with experience at occupations, are particularly and urgently needed over the next week or two." Such an approach implies a view of workers' struggles where nothing is possible without the assistance of visiting "activists".

No it doesn't. It implies that when we asked someone who was involved what help would be useful, that is what we were told, so that is what was passed on.

Though for the record I have not seen it disputed by anyone who has been in touch with what has been gong on that Workers' Climate Action ("visiting activists") were very influential in prompting it to happen. If anyone knows different - I don't mean 'wishes different' - then please let us know.

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Choccy
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Jul 30 2009 10:20

Footage inside the plant
Guardian

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 31 2009 11:46

Supporters break in to deliver food: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/30/vestas-factory-workers-food-union

We've* raised over £100 in street collections in Brighton over the last week and distrubuted about 1000 leaflets. Some of that cash was apparently used to buy the food that was delivered in the recent break-in, as opposed to going to the union-controlled fund.

* We being Brighton Class Struggle Forum, a group that meets monthly to co-ordinate between SolFed, the AF, Aufheben and other groups/non-aligned individuals. We had a bit of help from an NSSN supporter and a rogue SWPpie too.

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Entdinglichung
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Jul 31 2009 13:37

and another occupation: http://savevestas.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/occupationitis-now-thomas-cook-dublin-have-come-down-with-it/

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 31 2009 14:02

the guardian article also reports that one of the workers who left for personal reasons yesterday had "dangerously low" blood sugar levels according to paramedics, and was advised to go to hospital. the fuckers are literally trying to starve them out, so even more kudos to the seige-breakers cool

Jason Cortez
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Jul 31 2009 17:23

Having been down there, i would say that the organising going on is pretty impressive in such a short time and a low starting point i.e. a mainly young workforce with little or no experience of workplace organising, almost no union membership ( something which is reflected in the wider work force on the island). The RMT offered to support all workers regardless of their membership status and have offered practical support. Whatever their limitations, the RMT have played an important role in this dispute, not least by giving confidence to the workers. This has definitely paid off for them with more workers joining the union every day. As to Workers Climate Action, they have been down there since three weeks before the occupation and from the conversations I and others had appear to have played a part, in giving the small minority of workers invovled in the intiail action, the confidence take things matters into their own hands. The Workers Climate Action seems to be an AWL front group, as far as i could tell. Indeed the Campaign for Climate Change heavily assiociated with the RMT have banners all over the roundabout (outside main gates) where the support camp is. The workers have been using items stuffed into tennis balls and then thrown up to the baloncy with those dog's ball throwers. The 'Left' and to a lesser extent greenies have been supportive and have leafleting , raising money etc but are showing little in the way of leadership. The workers are organising things themsleves with input from these groups esp AWL but the main influrence appears to be the RMT. There is a stewards committee which is co-ordinating the support of the occupiers and demos etc, this is small but dynamic and dedicated group of workers but seem to showing signs of being overwhelmed with demands being placed on them, unsurprisingly they in turn are turning to the RMT fulltimers and the activists for support and direction, but as yet are not really delegating much power to the other workers, which ultimately be the only way of dealing with this.The workforce is comprised of mainly young 20-mid 30s and predominately male, at present a small but signifcant section of the workforce is active in support of the occupation, but this does seem to be growing. The workers have mass meetings of those present (when i was there usually about sixty) which only open to workers and the RMT officails, whilst this prevents activists having too much direct influrance it also excludes the main supporters the families and partners from partispation and completely devalues that this is their lives too. Whilst there are still some organising differculties, the biggest problems I see are that they are not really seeing this statergy of the current occupation limitations, an clear example is the next door resin factory will be directly affected by Vestas closing and the workers are expecting a major announcement in about 2 weeks time regarding redundancies, their appears to have been little attempt to build real connections (management next door are so worried about their premises being occuppied that the workers are informed of major decisions outside the plant and have no doubt warn workers away from talking to the Vestas workers) this would seem to me to a piority. AFAIK the industrial estate workers nor the hospital nearby have not been leafletted, unions contacted etc. The workers on the barges who carried the blades have blacked the company meaning no blades have left the premises, i am unaware whether these are RMT members. But the need for some workers to be going to these workers and other workforces to discuss with them how they widen the struggle is urgent. There has been some progress in this area with a delegation going to the Dutch factory. Another political problem is the relationship to the police, whilst hostile to the Hampshire riot police, they have made certain agreements withe island's police regarding not attempting to enter the factory grounds etc, whilst understandable after the riot police attempts force entry and arrests of supporters trying to gat food to the occupiers, indeed it was a good tactic for stabilising the situation so the workers could get better organised on the outside, there seems to be an exessive wieght given to this agreement, despite the fact the police will break it as soon as it is expient to do so. There seems to to be a conservative approach to a number of things esp. public image, relations with police etc which also seems to be affecting their views on how to win this dispute which are unrealistic. All of this could change very rapidly, esp considering the what the affect of this experience has had on main organisers who feel it has changed their lives and the way they see the world in less than two weeks. What we can do is: go down there, talk, offer support; spread the word, hold public meetings; facillitate meetings with workers in the supply chain esp transport.
Sorry if this is a bit of a ramble and all over the place.

Kim Müller
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Jul 31 2009 18:54

In Malmö (Sweden) we have had 2 protests again the Vestas northern european office and handing out leaflets to the public. The first one was about 30 people and it was last friday, we got there at lunch to catch some of the employees but the office had chosen down instead, so then we had a surprise visit at monday with 15 people turning up at 8 in the morning.

baboon
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Jul 31 2009 19:34

Excellent post Jason. It shows for me the degree of self-organisation that originated outside of the unions and the combativity of these young workers. The double-edged sword of the role of the unions, in this case the RMT, is once again shown in this dispute; initially, seemingly providing an impulse, assistance to the workers (and I don't deny genuine feelings of some workers on the union side), then restrict it, take charge of it as in the case of the enclosed mass meeting where only RMT officials are allowed. This excludes any elements of outside solidarity, as well as family and the community.

Jason's post above clearly points to the limitations that need to be overcome in this struggle: the involvement and extension to other workers - the factory next door would be a good start 'workers go to other workers', "to discuss with them how to widen the struggle", as he says.

There's the overall danger of the "circus" element, and the danger of that not insignificant force for the bourgeoisie, the Greens. But the real danger lies within the positive elements to this struggle being subsumed and there are indications of that above particularly with the strike committee. The struggle needs to open up, a general assembly open to all workers, their supporters and the community generally is always a positive move. It's obviously difficult here but any genuine attempt to spread the struggle would be a victory in itself.

Wellclose Square
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Aug 2 2009 16:58

Jason - excellent, informative post, well done for getting down there. I'd second Baboon's comments.

no1
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Aug 3 2009 15:56

A group for supporting the Vestas workers was set up in Brighton yesterday. We'll be leafletting the main train station from 5.30 on Tuesday, and there will be another organising meeting on Wednesday, 7pm in the Cowley Club, in case you want to get involved. The email group's here:

http://groups.google.com/group/brightonvestassupport

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flaneur
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Aug 4 2009 17:48

Just saw a report on Channel 4 News, where one of the occupiers on the second building occupied had a green and black flag.

Zlad
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Aug 4 2009 12:20

Owners of a wind turbine factory have been granted permission to evict workers staging a sit-in in protest over the plant's planned closure.

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/vestas+to+end+wind+turbine+sitin+/3294662

no1
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Aug 4 2009 20:43

Does anybody know if the occupying workers will resist eviction?

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Steven.
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Aug 4 2009 20:56

I read elsewhere that they said that they wouldn't.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 4 2009 21:02
BBC wrote:
Six sit-in protesters at a wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight are continuing their action despite a court granting a possession order. A worker said they would ignore the order and stay for as long as possible. "If and when we do have to come out we will do it peacefully but not before then."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8183323.stm

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Alf
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Aug 5 2009 09:41

article on our website

http://en.internationalism.org/2009/icconline/august/vestas

no1
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Aug 5 2009 16:20

The Vestas workers are calling for a demo in Newport on Saturday a day of action on Wednesday 12th of August. This is from one of the workers occupying the factory:

Quote:
Saturday 8th august St Thomas Square, Newport - rally and march
We ask all our supporters family and friends to meet once again in Newport in St Thomas Square for a gathering and a march . We urge you to utilise this time to meet new people and discuss new ideas to push this forward . The pressure is on the govt but if we slow our campaign they will get away with a huge crime not just against people of the country but also the planet . This as we already know is unacceptable but unless we make them listen they will run riot with our future. But the message from us inside vestas is have fun and enjoy the community around you . Stand up for yourselves and causes you agree with !

Miliband is not even in the country (believed to be on holiday )which shows us they are not serious about following through the promise of 400,000 green jobs . Nationalisation is still an option the energy production in the country should not be left down to greedy multinationals with only profit in mind. Our govt has pledged £6m(not a new promise) to an already profitable company who have no regard for the employees and their families. This is your money not the govts.

National day of action

We are calling on businesses and individuals to show their support with a national day of action .

Wednesday 12th of August we urge everyone around the country to do what they can to show their support for the cause . It is essential to show our govt that we are not just a few people in a factory but a huge number of organisations and individuals who think the govt should listen to the calls of its people and not brush it aside. Do anything you feel comfortable doing and remember you are morally correct .

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Choccy
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Aug 6 2009 11:15

yeah BBC coverage of same here
Bailiffs are saying they will use 'reasonable force'

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AES
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Aug 6 2009 11:35

http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Eviction_notice_served_on_Vestas_occupiers
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=55989366737

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AES
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Aug 7 2009 10:25

bump. any news?

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Entdinglichung
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Aug 7 2009 11:16

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8189278.stm

"Workers who have been staging a sit-in protest at a wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight have left the building.

Bailiffs entered the offices of Vestas in Newport at 1200 BST after the firm was granted a possession order.

..."

sad

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AES
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Aug 7 2009 11:26

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8189278.stm

Quote:
'High spirits'

Crowds of supporters lined the site cheering on the men before they were were spoken to by police.
They had raised a sign from a balcony outside which said: 'Vestas, this is only the start, you will lose.'
Protester Dave Arbuthnott told the BBC that the men were in "high spirits" and looking forward to seeing their families.
He said "It has managed to get the government to the table, to say we are going to do something about it".
Vestas has blamed the plans to lay off the 625 workers on a drop in demand.

http://savevestas.wordpress.com/

Quote:
‘Vestas, this is only the start, you will lose’

The eviction has taken place http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8189278.stm but it is only the start of our battle for jobs and for the planet! We salute you, guys. You’re the spark that’s lit a fire.
P.S. The rooftop protest at Cowes is ongoing – the protestors are looking forward to watching the Cowes Week fireworks this evening.

Quote:
Rally in Newport, IoW on Saturday 8 August,
and everywhere on Wednesday 12 August

There will be a demonstration in Newport, IoW this Saturday 8 August. Assemble at 1pm in the town centre. Please make every effort to get down there this weekend, especially if you haven’t been yet. The campaign to save green jobs at Vestas will go on whatever transpires today (E Day?).

Next Wednesday 12 August has been declared national day of solidarity with Vestas workers. Please organise an activity to mark this – a lunchtime rally, evening leafleting of railway station, etc. – and let us know about it so that we can advertise it.

Jason Cortez
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Aug 11 2009 15:14

The reports i am hearing are that the guys who were occupying have reinvigorated the protest outside and finally there is serious talk about putting proper pickets at all entrances (the activists and some workers have been recomending for weeks) and leafletting the next door factory that produces resin. Although how long the ex-occuppiers can sustain this level of activity, I am not sure. The RMT have full timers down there all the time and they appear to have sidelined the Portsmouth branch members to some extent. The RMT certainly have been pushing the peaceful protest angle and at least one full timer has said this is now more of a recruitment issue that will give the RMT electoral stragerty a base on the island (this was from the sounds of it an old tankie). On the plus side the RMT are organising a nationwide speaking tour of some of the workers, their partners and kids.The RMT full timers have been accused of censoring the occupiers messages to fit their own agenda (the messages used to be read out verbaiten at the evening rally) I not been able to verifry this, but the source is believeable. There also seems to be delveloping a widering split between the activists and the workers, with a degree of mistrust and low level bitching happening. The two sides are not mixing as much (this was before the eviction, and things change quickly, so this may now be being overcome to some extent), a bit of culture clash, insenstivity and the tendancy of some the activist folks to lecture the workers on what they need to do next (with workers faces glazing over). One good example is the kitchen tent which has now become vegan only and in the main serves the Climate Camp, whereas before it was a resource for all, if a bit disorganised. It is a shame that in the process of geetiing it organised the activists have alienated the workers, to the extent that a local burger van now caters to the needs of the workers. This is missed oppotunity as a kitchen ran with serving all the folks invovled (esp. if they utilised the space outside with seating) would be an ideal way of getting different groups mixing socially and working together. It would provide a straight forward arena for working with a shared purpose, in a relaxed manner. This is still a winable fight but the workers need to be organising to win. I will attempt to write a detailed overview in the not too distant future.

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Steven.
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Aug 11 2009 15:35

Cheers for the informative updates and analysis Jason

baboon
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Aug 13 2009 19:53

I think the post from Jason above speaks for itself about the danger that the union posed for this struggle and how isolation has reinforced its grip, along with that of "green" ideology. The "recruitment drive" statement of the RMT couldn't be clearer and reportedly "censoring workers' messages"! I wouldn't fancy taking my partner and kids on tour with them.
And while Jason sees this tour as positive, I don't. It's more publicity for the RMT, more recruitment drives and "electoral strategies", all wrapped up in a climate change mystification, which this tour will no doubt propagate.

Jason Cortez
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Aug 14 2009 10:45

Except workers telling their story about their struggle to other workers, sharing experiences and asking for a support is a nessasary part of attempting to spread the struggle and quite frankly a coalition of small groups couldn't have done this on the scale or speed nor comfort that it is being done by the RMT. The simple truth as far as I am aware, is that the workers lacked confidence and organisation until the RMT arrived, despite the presence of activists for weeks prior offering support and advice. I think it was the 'legitimincy' of the RMT Portsmouth Ferry Branch members that gave the workers on the outside the confidence to act on advice and the branch secretary offer of his VW camper van as an office, an important organising hub. After the RMT arrival, the development of the workers confidence in their ability to organise grow quickly and rapidly produce concrete results. now there is no denying that this was at the cost of some extent becoming reliant on the advice and support of the RMT, which was reflected in their approach to the overall strategy, but this was only one factor amongst others, though obviously an important one. To be clear I am not saying without the RMT involvement that the workers wouldn't not have been able to organise themselves but it certainly speeded up the process. Now that the 'occuppiers' are on the outside, the dynamic is very different as they are naturally seem as having a great deal of kudos and are listen to with respect. Now if they are not so impressed with the RMT, it will certainly open up other possibilities. Indeed on Saturday there was a mass invasion of the grounds. Also the workers have reclaimed the roundabout as a more shared territory. I think that the approach that says a prior that the unions are simply bad, does not recognised the complexities of real life situations such as these, where there is a possibility of the struggle going beyond the limitations of the unions, but that the union was also an important factor in the events developing to this point.

Jason Cortez
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Aug 14 2009 10:57
Baboon wrote:
The "recruitment drive" statement of the RMT

This was a statement of an individual full timer which may or may not reflect the RMT as an organisation thinking. i thought it was worth repeating as it clearly showed that this person was more interested in making political gains for whatever party he was a member of inside NO2EU than for winning this struggle. This reflects much of the 'left's' approach to unions at present.

Jason Cortez
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Aug 14 2009 11:00

I am not sure what you mean by "all wrapped up in a climate change mystification," are you saying that you don't believe that climate change is happening? or that it is man made, Baboon?