Friday, 21 August 2009

Climate change, jobs and the Vestas factory

While on holiday recently on the Isle of Wight my partner Sam and I headed down to the Vestas wind turbine factory which has recently been closed by its owners.

The closure received lots of coverage because some of the 600 workers who were being made redundant took to the roof in protest at the loss of jobs in an area of already high unemployment and the loss of the UK's only wind turbine factory at a time when the government says it wants to expand the renewables sector.

Just before leaving for holiday the roof occupation had ended, so I was not quite sure how the campaign was going. We got to the site via a scenic walk from the centre of Newport down the river Medina -- which was used to transport turbines to the port. Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised by the level of activity. There was also a well provisioned protest camp set up outside the gates, loads of banners showing support from organisations ranging from the Fire Brigade Union to the local church. I was pleased to hear that the fighting fund was up to £10,000 and I chipped in my loose change, getting a copy of their protest song "Boys on the balcony" and a ribbon in exchange.

I found it really interesting to see the coming together of the different groups. The workers were leading the campaign. There was the RMT supporting them through the redundancies and fighting the sackings. People from the Climate Camp were there helping out generally and with the catering. The wider local community was also supportive. While I was there a number of people dropped in with supplies including fresh vegetables for the kitchen and cake.

If we are to tackle climate change we are clearly going to need this kind of broad coalition. We will also need the equipment to generate electricity in a renewable way. What better way to get people into work than to nurture and expand the renewable energy sector. This is part of what the Green Party have been calling for in the form of a Green New Deal, an innovative plan to restructure the economy through a billion-pound package for investing in green jobs -- in renewables and energy efficiency -- to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and cut householders’ fuel bills.

The proposed Isle of Wight closure is a blow for the 600 skilled British workers set to lose their jobs. It also threatens any attempt the UK makes to position itself at the forefront of global technological efforts to create a greener and fairer future.

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