Thursday, July 30, 2009
Eleven of the 25 workers at the Vestas factory in Newport, Isle of Wight, England who have been carrying out a sit-in since Monday July 20 have been sacked with immediate effect.
According to one of the protesters known as “Mike”, the occupiers were given their dismissal notices concealed under slices of their evening meal of pizza. The company said that the protesters have had ample opportunity to air their point of view, and had no choice but to sack eleven of the twenty five workers that they had positively identified; and that given that the fact that the action constituted a “fundamental breach” of trust, that the eleven would not be entitled to redundancy packages. A press release from the company said that Vestas “saw no other choice than to dismiss the 11 employees, who the company has positively identified as the employees currently participating in the occupation of the factory.”
The protesters remained upbeat, vowing to continue their occupation and have called upon the UK government to save the 625 jobs and to nationalise the Danish owned factory. Occupier Ian Terry told the BBC that if the occupiers are forced out, they plan to leave the building “peacefully”.
Vestas management were dealt a setback today in ending the occupation as Newport County Court ruled that the papers accusing the occupiers of aggravate trespass and requiring they surrender the office they occupy by July 29 were improperly served. The case has been adjourned until Tuesday August 4. In court, Judge Graham White said he was “distinctly uncomfortable” with what he perceived as Vestas’ effort to “get around the rules” in retaking the factory from the occupiers.
Legal representation for the Vestas workers had been offered by Bob Crow, secretary of the RMT trade union. Crow has pledged the “full solidarity” of the RMT and seven other unions with the workers occupying the plant.
Vestas management has also been providing the occupiers with hot meals in an apparent response to Crow’s announcement, made on July 24, that the RMT was planning on airlifting food into the factory by helicopter. Crow is meeting today with Ed Miliband, the Environment Minister.
Earlier in the week, Miliband pledged £6 million in funding to an expansion of Vestas’ Isle of Wight research and development centre, which currently employs 110 workers and could, said the Minister, be expanded to employ 40 more.
Rallies continued throughout the week in support of the Vestas occupiers. Since the occupation began, the Vestas workers have received declarations of support and solidarity from a wide swathe of the British left, including but not limited to: political parties Green Party, Respect, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Alliance for Workers Liberty, and the Communist Party of Britain; the TUCG group, which brings together the BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUJ, PCS, POA, RMT, and URTU; and environmental groups Greenpeace, the Campaign against Climate Change, Climate Camp, and Workers’ Climate Action, who claims credit for initiating the campaign to occupy the factory. Attendees of the Big Green Gathering, a large annual environmentalist rally which was due to take place starting today but was suddenly canceled on Sunday, are being encouraged to go to the Isle of Wight and take part in support rallies for Vestas instead.
Speaking to Wikinews about the “red–green” coalition supporting the occupation, a spokesman for the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty said: “We think this struggle is important on at least three grounds — it is central to the struggle for jobs, it is central to the struggle for the environment, and it is central to the struggle for rebuilding the labour movement.”
Photographs shared with Wikinews by the occupiers show the occupiers, mostly young men, talking, carrying out everyday tasks, and keeping in touch with the outside world via mobile phones. The use of mobile telephones in the Vestas occupation has given the press remarkable access to the occupiers and provided an effective platform for relaying their demands and feelings to the media. In contrast, Vestas’s designated media contact for the United Kingdom is on vacation. Attempts to reach Vestas Newport factory manager Patrick Weir, whom a Vestas representative at the company’s Danish headquarters stated was handling press inquiries regarding the occupation, received no reply.
Vestas plans to close the factory on July 31, citing the difficulties of obtaining planning permission for wind farms in the United Kingdom. All blades manufactured at Vestas’ Newport plant are sent to the United States. 1900 employees of the company in Northern Europe face job losses, 625 of them in Vestas’s plants in the south of England.