Vestas workers discuss next steps

Submitted by martin on 7 October, 2009 - 2:50 Author: Dan Rawnsley

The Vestas wind turbine blade workers on the Isle of Wight have called a meeting for Friday 9 October to discuss the future of their campaign for Friday 9 October.

Vestas, a big Danish-based multinational, announced the close of their blade-manufacture operation on the Isle of Wight - the only sizeable one in Britain - on 28 April. The workers occupied the Newport factory from 20 July to 7 August to stop closure, and then blockaded it until the blockade was broken up by large numbers of police on 22 September.

Mark Smith, one of the Vestas occupiers, told Solidarity that prospects on the island for unemployed workers are grim. Many are "stuck on training programs with no guarantee of a job at the end". Workers need a general campaign for jobs on the island - green jobs, unionised jobs, jobs on decent pay and conditions, and jobs with openings for young people.

Despite the fact that the occupation and the blockade only delayed the closure a couple of weeks, they rejuvenated the labour movement on the island at this meeting. The 9 October meeting could make sure something solid and more permanent comes out of that, by deciding to move on to a general campaign and to rejuvenate the Trades Councils on the island as a vehicle for that.

The rejuvenation of the Trades Councils can be done either through drawing many more delegates into the existing joint Cowes/Newport Trades Council - which sponsored the first meeting to discuss resistance to the Vestas closure, back on 3 July - or maybe by merging the Trades Councils into a "county Trades Council".

A livelier central Trades Council will bring all the organised workers on the island together into a coherent labour movement. It will create a central pool of activists capable of acting rapidly and more readily in unison with one another.

Where there is a threat to the working class, the Trades Council must be in a position to see this threat coming, discuss it, and organise a fight around it.

It could also start discussing a workers’ plan for the island, proposing socially-valuable uses for many of the offices and factories now lying empty.

A model for that was given by Lucas Aerospace workers in the 70s when, threatened with redundancies, they worked out a plan for using their factory to produce things such as dialysis machines in place of its previous military contracts.

A Conservative victory is likely at the next general election, and with it an even more anti-worker government than New Labour, waging war against public services. The island’s only tax office is already threatened with closure, and a schools reorganisation currently in train will cut jobs too.

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