‘Our fight goes on!’ say Vestas workers

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Vestas wives and girlfriends demand green jobs
Vestas wives and girlfriends demand green jobs

‘What do we want – nationalisation, now! Organise, occupy, fight for the right to work!’ shouted over three hundred sacked Vestas workers and their supporters as they marched from Newport town centre to the Isle of Wight wind turbine factory on Saturday.

A group of 25 Vestas workers occupied offices in the blade making plant on July 20.

Vestas had told them the factory was closing on July 31st and 625 jobs would go.

The occupation won tremendous support and the planned closure date was forced back to today, Monday, August 10.

Saturday’s march was preceded by a defiant rally following the eviction of the last six occupiers on Friday.

It is being followed by a Day of Action on Wednesday and the workers are continuing their daily protests outside the factory.

One of the six, Mark Smith told News Line before the rally: ‘We need to take more direct action and get more Vestas workers involved.

‘We need to take direct action to stop anything happening at the Vestas plants on the island – all of them.

‘We also need to put pressure on the new technology centre.

‘We have to demand that the unions take action in our support.

‘They say they support us, we need them to get their members to start taking action in our support.

‘We’re calling for Vestas to be nationalised, the unions should back us in achieving that.

‘They should put pressure on the government so if Vestas don’t want to know, to compulsory purchase the factory.’

Opening the rally, another of the six final occupiers, Michael Godley said: ‘Our occupation showed the way.

‘This is not the end of the struggle.

‘The closure of the factory will be devastating for the whole island.

‘We are getting the word out. The sit-in is over but the struggle goes on.

‘We still need to put pressure on the Vestas management, on the council and on the island.’

Mark Smith told the rally: ‘The main thing we are asking for is all the Vestas workers to turn up every single day and push the campaign along.’

Another of the last six ‘heroes’, Ian Terry said: ‘We’ve had brilliant support.

‘We’ll see what we can get on the Day of Action.

‘It’s not just the island, it’s the future of the planet.’

Isle of Wight Unison regional officer Mark Chiverton called for a round of applause for the occupiers.

He told the rally: ‘On behalf of Unison and all the trade unions who support this, we should show our appreciation for the courage you’ve shown.

‘You’ve been a beacon for the country.

‘Whichever party, whichever union you are, you must support these workers.

‘I give this pledge from Unison that as long as you want us to be there we will support you in whatever you want us to do.

‘To the people of the island, I say we need to keep up this campaign, to build it up.’

Chairing the rally Michael Godley said: ‘We stood as a small group of unionised workers who decided we had to do something.’

Phil from the Campaign Against Climate Change, told the rally: ‘Things are happening in the planet all round us.

‘This is not just about the Isle of Wight and the people here.

‘We need green jobs. We need the people here. We need Vestas.

‘Let’s start building wind turbines on the Isle of Wight.’

Bob Borton, Cowes TUC secretary, said: ‘On behalf of the trades councils, we give our support to this rally.

‘But we have an MP facing two ways and the council have done nothing to help this situation – they are useless.’

The schoolboy son of one of the Vestas workers Chris told the rally: ‘The government are trying to make the country eco-friendly.

‘I can’t see how they are going to do that if they don’t make wind turbines. Save my dad’s job.’

Raj Gill, GMB hotel and catering branch secretary, and representing Ealing trades council, said: ‘We understand the continuing struggle to save jobs.

‘We support your struggle to keep your factory open.

‘The government should do something practical.’

Pete Brown from the RMT pledged: ‘We will be there to the end.

‘We will be there shoulder to shoulder with these brave workers.

‘You’ve shown us how to do it.’

The march from Newport kept up chants of ‘nationalisation now’ and was greeted with toots from passing motorists.

The marchers went through the factory estate and surprised the police and security guards when it went into the factory grounds from the rear.

There was a 45 minute stand-off at the front office entrance.

Marchers shouting ‘reinstate Vestas workers’ were demanding that the Newport factory manager Patrick Weir came out and talk to them but he never showed his face.

Eventually agreement was reached with the police to leave via the front gates.

Mark Smith thanked all for taking part in the day’s protest, saying: ‘We made a good statement.

‘Once again we’re calling on all the Vestas workers to turn up and support us.’

One of the marchers, Simon Cardew told News Line: ‘Vestas has to be nationalised.

‘We can’t wait around for more jobs to be created in the island, we need to reinstate the Vestas jobs today, not tomorrow.’

‘Mack’ McNamara said: ‘My nipper Jamie was one of the six surviving occupiers.

‘I fully support them because of the effect that losing their jobs will have on the island.

‘The company prepared this.

‘They sent workers from this factory to America for six weeks at a time to train up American staff.

‘The workers from here thought they were helping Vestas expand and set up a new factory in the US.

‘In fact, they were getting ready to close the UK factory down.

‘The unions should take action to support the Vestas workers

‘The unions should make the government nationalise the plant and send Vestas back to Denmark.’

McNamara’s son Jamie Rigby said: ‘It was important that we did occupy.

‘We’d tried everything else to get the government involved and to defend our jobs.

‘The occupation made a big difference.

‘It made people take notice of what we are doing.

‘We want as many people as possible to take action.

‘The unions should insist the government nationalise Vestas, even form a state-owned company to keep it going.

‘It would be good if the unions launch a campaign to nationalise Vestas.’