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Vestas delays closure of Newport plant

Friday, July 31, 2009

County Hall, seat of Isle of Wight Council
Image: Editor5807.

Vestas Wind Systems, whose closing wind turbine blade manufacturing centre in Newport, Isle of Wight, England remains the site of a occupation now in its 11th day, has suddenly announced that the consultation period preceding the closure of the plant has been extended, and that the plant will remain open until mid-August.

The announcement, which was reported not by Vestas but by the RMT, was described by RMT General Secretary Bob Crow as "another significant milestone in the fight to save the factory and 625 skilled manufacturing jobs in green energy." The plant had been due to close today.

News of the delay comes hours after confused reports that Vestas was withholding redundancy payment for at least 525 of the workers whose jobs were lost. According to a report by the local newspaper the Isle of Wight County Press, cheques which employees had been expecting today did not arrive; instead, workers who contacted Vestas management were told they would not receive payment until an interview process had been completed, and that if they began new jobs before the interview process was over they would not receive their money. However, according to Ventnorblog, a local Isle of Wight blog which has been following the Vestas closure closely, the layoff process was being delayed because a majority of the Vestas employees were refusing to agree to the management's redundancy plan.

The delay of the closure allows more time for the negotiation of potential solutions for the Newport plant to remain open. The Vestas occupiers and labour groups continue to favour nationalisation of the plant, with Socialist Party spokesman Nick Chaffey saying:

Cquote1.svg The courageous stand of the Vestas occupation and the huge support that stands alongside it from Vestas workers and beyond has rocked management and the government. With the vital support of the RMT and wider support from the trade union movement including PCS, POA and FBU, the workers' demand for nationalisation is the only way to resolve this crisis. Cquote2.svg

In addition to the Vestas occupiers' proposal that the factory be nationalised, Caroline Lucas, the MEP for South East England and a member of the Green Party, has proposed that Vestas employees should form a workers' co-operative with government aid in order to keep the plant running. The Tory-dominated Isle of Wight Council has unanimously endorsed a resolution saying that the plant should stay open, and has called for new investors to take the Vestas plant over, as was done at a smaller Vestas plant in Scotland recently.

The news of the delay comes as workers at the plant accused Vestas management of harassing the families of the 24 remaining occupiers of the plant. Families of some occupiers were served with legal papers at their homes. One of the occupiers, Luke Paxton, left the factory on Thursday night in order to be re-united with his family; Paxton was checked for malnutrition and low blood sugar by paramedics but was not hospitalized, instead opting to go home. Paxton complained that Vestas management, while now providing hot food to the occupiers, were still under-feeding them; the RMT, which is providing legal aid to the Vestas workers, has accused Vestas management of violating the Human Rights Act by attempting to "starve the workers at Vestas into submission".

Protesters in fancy dress were successful in sending food into the plant yesterday. Protesters dressed as a fantasy wizard and can-can dancers distracted police and company security guarding the fence which has been erected around the site while other protesters flung a bag of food and an electric kettle onto the balcony outside the office which has served as the occupiers' home base inside the factory. No arrests were made but the protesters were removed from the factory grounds.

Requests for comment from Vestas management received no reply.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.