Aerial support for Vestas as hopes of government help dashed
Isle of Wight County Press: July 24, 2009
By Martin Neville
A MESSAGE of support for the Vestas sit-in protestors streaked across the sky last night (Thursday). A banner attached to a plane proclaimed: "Save Our Jobs Save the Island."
The banner on the RMT plane showing support for the Vestas workers, which reads Save Our Jobs, Save the Island. Picture by Laura Holme.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, which funded the flypast, told hundreds of supporters outside the factory that the union would air-drop food supplies to the sit-in protestors from a helicopter if necessary.
Given the government is most unlikely to nationalise the Vestas plant to save jobs for the Island, Labour councillor Geoff Lumley approached the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband MP, on Wednesday.
Cllr Lumley wanted to explore the possibility of a local consortium being set up to take over the plant and using new government grants to change blade production to meet UK offshore demand .
However, Cllr Lumley has learnt this is not an option available to the Island, primarily due to the absence of 'assisted area’ status for the Isle of Wight.
Cllr Lumley said: "I am massively disappointed and frustrated that there seems to be no alternative way forward, at least in the short term.
"However, nothing has been lost by my approach and I will continue to seek ways in which these 600 jobs can be retained."
Vestas dispute: Red and green coalition forms to fight wind plant closure
Guardian: 23 July 2009
Wind turbine workers stage jobs fight sit-in at the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight
Police keep watch as staff members stage a sit-in the Vestas Wind Systems factory in Newport, Isle of Wight following the company's announcement to close the wind turbine manufacturing plant. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
A unique "red and green" army of trade union and environmental campaigners was on the march in an attempt to save from closure Britain's only major wind turbine manufacturing plant.
Up to 500 people are expected outside the Vestas plant at Newport on the Isle of Wight tomorrow night where 25 workers are engaged in a sit-in, while further demonstrations are being planned simultaneously outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change in London.
Greenpeace said the Vestas dispute promised a historic change from a situation where the labour movement and environment activists have found themselves on different sides of the fence, with one wanting to shut down polluting industries and the other defending jobs.
"Although we have always tried to highlight the employment opportunities that could flow from a low-carbon economy, historically there has been animosity between the two sides. If we can build this new alliance and break down those perceived barriers then there all sorts of exciting opportunities," said John Sauven, UK executive director of Greenpeace.
The RMT transport union endorsed the Vestas dispute as a springboard for closer co-operation, with its general secretary, Bob Crow - better known for addressing striking London Underground workers - visiting the wind plant today. He said: "There is an interesting coalition growing around Vestas that builds on issues where we have common cause such as public transport, which is really green transport. But this is a unique situation [on the Isle of Wight] involving globalisation, recession and the kind of low-carbon manufacturing jobs that everyone can relate to."
The growing protests are embarrassing the energy and climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, who last week promised that thousands of new jobs would come from a new, low-carbon economy and now finds himself on the defensive over a decision by a cash-rich company to close a plant directly involved in renewable energy.
Miliband said he had been trying hard to help avoid job losses. "They [Vestas] are keeping a protoype facility at the factory and we are currently considering an application from them for government help to test and develop offshore wind blades in a facility which would employ 150 people on the Isle of Wight initially and potentially more later," he said.
In April, Vestas announced plans to shut the manufacturing side of the Isle of Wight business with the potential loss of 600 jobs, saying it could produce blades cheaper in America.
Why Vestas closed Isle of Wight plant
Guardian Letters: 24 July 2009
Seumas Milne misses the reality of the problems faced by Vestas and hence the real solutions (Even the Isle of Wight wants Miliband to buck the market 23 July). The factory makes onshore wind turbines, not for Britain and Europe but a different-sized turbine for the US. It has now opened a US facility to serve that market. For months, we have worked with the company to understand what would be required to convert the factory to making onshore blades for the UK. The issue for Vestas was not subsidies, but how it could get enough orders. Despite a 67% rise in offshore wind generation last year and a 29% increase in onshore wind, they do not yet have sufficient orders. We need to grow the market and central to that, as Vestas has said, is planning.
Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Vestas, says Britain is "probably one of the most difficult places in the world to get permission". That is why the planning rules are being changed next year. But while the rules matter, so does public opposition or support. We are unlikely to be a centre for onshore wind production if applications are consistently turned down. So we have to win a political argument.
In the meantime, there must be a strategy for the Isle of Wight. Not just support for the workers losing their jobs, but a strategy to work with Vestas. It is keeping a prototype facility at the factory and we are considering an application for help to test and develop offshore blades in a plant which would employ 150 people initially and potentially more later. Alongside this, we will invest £120m in offshore wind manufacturing and £60m in the marine industry. This is an active industrial strategy to create low-carbon jobs throughout the country.
Ed Miliband MP,
Secretary of state for energy and climate change