Food packages to Vestas occupiers cut off

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Food deliveries from the RMT were allowed into the Vestas plant in Newport, England yesterday, but were cut off by Vestas management this afternoon.

Protesters at the Isle of Wight factory celebrated the delivery of supermarket bags filed with groceries, which entered with a police escort. This morning, the sixteen remaining occupiers were told to prepare a list of items for future deliveries. But, according to "Mark", an occupier in the Vestas plant, this afternoon Vestas management reversed their decision, terming the August 1 food delivery a one-time "goodwill gesture" and saying food would no longer be allowed in. The food delivery followed a formal complaint by the RMT that denying the occupiers food was a violation of their human rights. The people inside the factory have been conducting their occupation since July 20, in protest against the closure of the factory, which produces wind turbine blades for the generation of wind power, and the loss of 625 jobs in the Isle of Wight and nearby areas.

Mark went on to praise the "brave people" who have circumvented the security ring around the plant in order to get food and other items to the occupiers. An electric kettle thrown at the end of a rope up to the occupiers is said to be working well. Mark also noted that Louise Christian, a prominent British human rights lawyer, is now representing the Vestas occupiers.

While the number of occupiers at the Vestas plant — originally nearly thirty, now only sixteen — have dwindled, Mark says the ones who remain are "very determined" and furthermore hold no ill will toward their co-workers who have left the occupation. In particular, the occupiers offered sympathy for Luke Paxton, who they say left the occupation due to a combination of personal issues and malnutrition brought on by the deprivation of food. Paxton, Mark said, has the remaining occupiers' "full support" and continues to campaign for the Vestas workers.

Mark also clarified the origins of the occupation. In contrast to claims that green socialist group Workers' Climate Action were behind the occupation, Mark presented a more nuanced picture: the Vestas workers' initial contacts were with veterans of the occupation of Visteon's auto parts plants, with the AWL, SWP and Socialist Party becoming involved later with "quite a big involvement" from all groups. Members of Workers' Climate Action attended Vestas workers' meetings and gave their opinions, but, Mark says, a committee organised by the workers and composed of workers was making all the decisions.

We have Polish workers with us. They're our friends.

Mark also strongly rejected the support of Solidarity, a "nationalist trade union" closely associated with the BNP. In a July 24 statement, Solidarity backed the Vestas workers, with union executive member David Kerr saying "We are behind the Vestas workers 100 per cent. British jobs must be protected." Mark, in reply, told Wikinews: "We do not want their support...they go against a lot of the things people believe in here. We have Polish workers with us. They're our friends."

Most of the Vestas occupiers remain independent of trade unions, with only three of the sixteen people inside being members of any union.

Mark closed with a message of solidarity with the occupiers of two Thomas Cook branches in Dublin, Ireland, whose employees began a sit-in at their offices on Friday after the announcement of surprise closures. "We fully support what you're doing. Don't back not be pushed around, do not be intimidated".

The Vestas occupiers have also exchanged messages of solidarity with SsangYong Motor Company in South Korea. Workers at SsangYong have been occupying their factory since May 22 in protest against a 36% cut in employees there.

The occupation continues accompanied by a warning of increased union unrest in Britain. Neil O'Brien of centre-right think tank Policy Exchange told The Daily Telegraph that, while labour unrest had increased, the current state of affairs is "nothing compared to what is going to happen once the brakes are slammed on public spending."


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.