Vestas dispute

A new period of class struggle

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Unofficial strikes, occupations and rank and file action - we need to learn from the new struggles by trade unionists and non-unionised workers alike, argues Charlie Kimber.

The occupation at the Vestas wind turbine plant, the support it has generated, and the global publicity it gained confirm that we are in a new period of class struggle. The initial effect of soaring unemployment was to panic most union leaders into abject surrender and to make many workers doubt their ability to fight.

Vestas changed the climate

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The workers at Vestas on the Isle of Wight have not won yet. But even without winning, they have done more for environmental politics in this country than a hundred conferences.

First, they have changed the debate about wind power. It's not true that onshore wind development is stalled in this country. There has been a 500 percent increase in onshore wind power in Britain in the last five years.

But it is true that among environmentalists many people took the NIMBY opposition to wind farms seriously. Now the balance has shifted decisively.

How we found the confidence to organise and take over our factory

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When a group of ununionised Vestas workers occupied their factory this summer they had to learn fast. Vestas worker Ian Terry writes about the lessons of the struggle.

I gave myself a mission to get an environmentally friendly job, something that didn't stress me out and I could take something positive away from. I got to Vestas and realised that everyone was bullied by management. Health and safety was not up to scratch. They claimed at the start that there was no expense spared, but air extraction wasn't good enough and people were getting resin on their skin. When I first started we didn't have a finishing time - it was work until the job's done. They'd just have you working more. They'd move the goal posts, make you clean the floors and so on.

Green cuts

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The irrationality of capitalism was starkly exposed in April when, despite massively increasing its profits for the first three months of the year, the manufacturing company Vestas announced that it was to shed 1,900 jobs.

Of these, 450 were to go at its plant on the Isle of Wight.

Such a news item would perhaps not excite much comment in these difficult economic times - except that Vestas is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines. Given the urgent need to deal with climate change the announcement caused disbelief and anger throughout the environmental movement.

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