Thursday, 30 July 2009

Thousands of Big Green Gathering ticketholders urged to show support at Vestas wind turbine factory

Police in the Isle of Wight are bracing themselves for the possible arrival of thousands of environmental activists who are heading to the island in a show of support for workers facing the closure of the Vestas wind turbine factory.

Around 25 Vestas workers are continuing their eight-day occupation of the the plant.

Hundreds of protesters have already flocked to the island in support of the staff, camping nearby in a show of solidarity that has been described as a new "red and green" coalition.

Their numbers could surge tomorrow after 15,000 festival-goerswith tickets for the now-cancelled Big Green Gathering festival in Somerset (BGG), were urged to head to the demonstration instead.

Throughout today blogs, emails, Facebook messages and Twitter feeds have carried messages urging those who would have attended BGG, a four-day event featuring music, debates and practical green living demonstrations, to book ferry tickets to the Isle of Wight .

There was no official call from BGG's organisers for disappointed ticketholders to divert to the Vestas protest, but the idea has spread quickly via word of mouth among green activists.

Some are calling the mass gathering in the Isle of Wight "Vestival", a play on the music festival Bestival that takes place on the island in September.

The BGG gathering was cancelled on Sunday, after Mendip district council and Somerset police sought a high-court injunction to prevent the family-friendly event from going ahead, claiming that it posed a safety risk.

The festival's directors have accused the police of taking a politically motivated decision to shut down the festival, possibly because it woud have raised money for the protest group Climate Camp, which is planning a major demonstration in London next month.

A convoy of several hundred Climate Camp activists are today heading to the Isle of Wight with the food, drink and camping equipment they had intended to use at the BGG. They will be joined by activists from other environmental groups, including Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Rush and Plane Stupid.

A group called Workers Climate Action, composed of socialist environmental campaigners, has already been on the island for almost a month, and helped to persuade staff that occupying the factory was the right course of action.

"We don't want to overburden the people already there, but the the message we're getting back is the more the merrier," said Steve Milligan, of Climate Camp.
"The idea is we'll be self-sufficient. There are various bits of grass where we can put up some tents ."

Many of the new influx of protesters are planning to arrive in time for a court hearing at Newport tomorrow, in which Vestas Windsystems will seek permission to regain possession of the plant. The company says its factory must close, with a loss of 625 staff, because the UK wind turbine market is not growing fast enough. The hearing could set in train the legal process allowing bailiffs to remove protesters from the site, which is scheduled to close on Friday.

Energy secretary Ed Miliband, who was heckled by Vestas protesters in Oxford yesterday , announced the UK government has awarded £6m to Vestas Technology, to help fund a turbine research centre at the Newport site.

However, the Danish firm said this would not prevent the closure of the Isle of Wight factory. Vestas plans to move production to Colorado in the United States.


WORKERS occupying Vestas Blades plant in Newport were given a stay of execution today (Wednesday) when a county court judge ruled that managers had not prepared the legal case to throw them out of the factory correctly.

Judge Graham White ordered Vestas’ legal team to come back next Tuesday (August 4) with papers to evict the workers after hearing evidence that workers named by Vestas had not been personally served with eviction notices.

As news filtered through to the hundreds of protestors outside, they began to cheer and chant 'The workers united will never be defeated.’

Steve Stotesbury, a Vestas worker who has been elected to represent the workers staging a sit-in at the factory, said: "This is a peaceful demonstration and that has been proved in court. We now say, management, come and join us at the negotiating table, lets sort this out. We are willing to talk.

"If they still do not heed our warning, I say fight on, victory is in sight."

From inside the factory, Mark Smith said: "We are all over the moon. As soon as the news broke we were all jumping up and down. Last night we all put in letters of appeal against our letters of dismissal on the grounds the company did not follow procedures."

Judge White told Vestas’ legal team he expected them to get their facts straight when they came before the court.

He ruled that Vestas had not complied with rules which govern the length of time that court proceedings can be instigated after papers to evict the workers had been served.

He said: "They must be served two clear days before the hearing date. It is accepted by the claimant that it was not and I can see no compelling reason why I should shorten that period."

He added: "I see no clear evidence of any threat of violence to property or persons by reason of the individuals occupying the property remaining there. It does not mean I sanction them remaining there.

"As far as service on named individuals is concerned, the law is very clear. Any named individual must be personally served and I am not satisfied that any named individual there apart from Mark Smith has been personally served."

For Vestas, Adam Rosenthal argued that the workers had been 'tentatively identified’ but Judge White told him he was 'distinctly uncomfortable’ with Vestas’ position.

He said: "They have not been tentatively identified, they are on the claim form. They are all listed. One does expect claimants to get their facts straight."

No comments: