by In Wales
Thu Jul 30th, 2009 at 05:30:49 AM EST
The Socialist Worker reports on an occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight as the trade union movement spread the message to call for support in saving the jobs of those who are being threatened with redundnacy there.
The occupation at the Vestas wind turbine factory in Newport, Isle of Wight is still solid as it nears the end of its first week.
The "solidarity camp" outside the factory is growing all the time, and public support across the island - and the world - is building.
The focus for workers and activists over the next few days will be on making the demonstration outside the court case on Wednesday as big as possible.
An email being sent around trade unionists outlines the situation:
Faced with the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight, the workers are occupying their factory to step up the fight to save the factory and their 600 jobs. This follows threats and intimidations from management. The workers are calling for nationalisation of the factory - the bosses have been making a profit so just want to make even more profit by relocating the work. Also the factory is the only one in the country that produces wind turbines which should form a key part of the Government's plan for sustainable energy.
Add that to the arguments that if the bankers can be bailed out with millions of pounds of taxpayers money then they should support 600 workers who will otherwise end up on the dole with 15,000 others on the Isle of Wight. It does make the valid point that the Government has been looking at the Green Economy as a means to recover from the recession so it would make sense to support the factory under these plans. But that said, I know little of the background to this.
wikinews provides some more information:
Vestas attributes its pullout from the UK to difficulty in obtaining planning permission for wind farms. The Independent quotes a senior company executive as saying, "We needed a stable long-term market and that was not there in the UK. We have made clear to the Government that we need a market. We do not need money." Vestas's income is up 59% in the last quarter, although its stock has dropped 4.4% on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange since the occupation began.
This occupation also forms the basis for a critique from the Guardian on the rise of occupations and boss-nappings recently:
The four day Vestas sit-in, which is an embarrassment both to the world's biggest turbine manufacturer and a government trying to launch a low-carbon jobs revolution, follows a similar occupation in April at three Visteon (car parts manufacturer) plants in the UK in addition to action at Waterford Crystal in Ireland and Prisme Packaging in Dundee.
Tony Woodley, the joint general secretary of the Unite union, whose members were involved at Visteon, said: "I think it is absolutely understandable and justified for workers to fight back where they feel there are no other alternatives and employers act badly." Asked whether he thought that Britain could see more sit-ins of the type seen at Vestas, where the staff are not unionised, Woodley said: "I would not be at all surprised. Labour laws do not protect people here and it's all too quick and easy for employers to sack people."
Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT union, who addressed Vestas workers yesterday, said: "The Vestas occupation, and the action at Visteon earlier this year, show that workers under attack can develop tactics that drive a coach and horses through the anti-union laws rather than just bending at the knee and accepting their fate.
"Occupations are immediate, focused and high profile and can force a dispute right into the headlines at short notice."
When workers have less to lose, why not occupy in these situations?
Public backlash will arise when strikes and occupations interfere with public service delivery, and the concept of solidarity is becoming ever more alien along with the concept of being a union member. But unions don't just strike and arrange direct action - there is a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes before such action is taken. None of this hits the headlines though reinforcing the perception of unions as old dinosaurs.
Unions have been hugely important in negotiating with Government to speed up provision of funding for skills training for those facing redundancy, for pushing the message of developing the green economy, raising issues that others aren't tackling well enough such as 'what are you doing to prevent the need for future bailouts?' and 'wtf are those welfare reforms about in a time like this?'
What should or shouldn't unions be doing right now?