Following the breaking-up of the blade blockade at the marine gate of the Vestas wind turbine blade factory at Newport, Isle of Wight, workers are debating how to take forward their campaign for green jobs.
At roughly 6.20 on the morning of Tuesday 22 September, a force of around 120 Hampshire police descended on the Isle of Wight and stormed the encampment which was being used by workers and supporters to block the movement of blades.
The Isle of Wight council came out in support of the Vestas management despite face-saving noises of sympathy for the workers they had previously made: they temporarily revoked the public right of way on the footpath running between the marine gate and the jetty where blades are loaded on barges to be taken up the River Medina and to Southampton. Police and Vestas security guards collaborated in setting up harris fencing and turning away commuters and local residents who tried to use the footpath.
Kelly Balchin, a worker from the offices at Venture Quays, said: “This is a very sad day, but we all knew it was likely to come eventually”. Mark Smith, who was one of the workers occupying the Newport factory from 20 July to 7 August, added: “This is nothing to get demoralised about. What we have to look at now is how to take the campaign forward. Vestas may have taken the blades out but they are still in an awkward position, as they have other machinery they want to get out and they need to get test blades in. They will still need to hire security to guard that site and so on”.
The idea that Workers’ Liberty has been pushing for some time – that the Trades Councils on the Isle of Wight should get together and revive themselves from new trade-union activism generated by the Vestas campaign; that this body should get an office and run a militant campaign for jobs on the Island – seems to be gaining support.
Such a strategy for developing working-class organisation and capacity to take direct action on the Island stands in contrast to the approach of others on the Left, particularly the SWP, which counterposes a “more political” strategy fixated on meetings, demonstrations, national "days of action" and so on.
Kelly Balchin stressed that the campaign needed to focus on pushing the council and the government to take their promises of “green jobs” seriously. Meetings are ongoing to regroup the Vestas workers and develop a strategy for the whole labour movement on the Island.