Workers staging the third day of a sit-in protest at the Vestas Wind Systems wind turbine factory in Newport Isle of Wight, yesterday said they are staying ‘as long as it takes’ until their demands are met.
The workers are calling for the plant to be nationalised to save their jobs, and have the support of the RMT and a number of other trade unions who are holding a demonstration and rally in Newport this evening.
One of the workers, who did not wish to be named, said yesterday: ‘We will not move until we know jobs are safe or unless the heavies come in to force us out.’
Vestas is axing 525 jobs at the Newport site and another 100 in Southampton.
The Danish owner had a fencing barrier erected around the site on Wednesday in a bid to prevent supporters passing food and drink to those inside.
The worker added: ‘We are sleeping on the office floor and washing in the toilet blocks.
‘We were brought some food today – not very much, but at least we got some.
‘We have been told that we will lose any redundancy payments if we continue, but this is more important than that.’
Police have been harassing the protest since it began on Monday.
A total of five people have now been arrested at the site, police said yesterday.
They added that Vestas had started legal action to gain an injunction to remove the occupying protesters.
The Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG), which comprises eight trade unions representing half a million members, yesterday sent its full solidarity to Vestas workers occupying their factory on the Isle of Wight.
John McDonnell MP, TUCG Convenor, said: ‘These workers are at the forefront of the struggle to save their jobs and our planet.
‘The TUCG stands shoulder-to-shoulder with this occupation and calls for full support and solidarity with this vitally important campaign.’
Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, said: ‘We know from workplace reports that this company is aggressively anti-union and the TUCG salutes the courage of those who have taken the brave decision to occupy the factory. They deserve the full support of the whole trade union movement.
‘There’s a simple solution to this dispute. The government should nationalise the factory, protect the jobs and show that they are walking the talk when it comes to green and renewable energy.’
Chris Baugh, PCS Assistant General Secretary, said: ‘PCS fully supports the workers at Vestas who are fighting to save their jobs.
‘We call on the government to intervene to save the plant in the interests of the Vestas workers, the regional economy on the Isle of Wight, the future of the renewables industry in the UK and to show that it is serious about meeting the UK’s climate change commitments.’
The TUCG member unions are: BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUJ, PCS, POA, RMT, and URTU
• Offshore energy union RMT was due yesterday evening to fly a plane over the Vestas factory with messages of support for the occupation – as Bob Crow and other supporters of the fight for jobs and green energy massed outside the gates for a rally in solidarity with the Vestas workforce at 6pm.
The RMT and other trade unionists yesterday managed to get some supplies of food and drink into the occupation.
RMT have been working on contingency plans to drop food in by helicopter if necessary to ensure that the Vestas workers are not starved into submission, and have called upon the wider trade union movement to ensure that supplies are maintained.
Crow said: ‘The Vestas workforce are in the front-line of the fight for jobs and the environment and RMT are calling for the maximum effort from all quarters to make sure that these brave men and women are not starved into submission.
‘The government cannot sit on the sidelines. They have a duty to intervene. If they can take the banks into public ownership then there’s no reason at all why they can’t nationalise Vestas.’