Vestas plant in Newport, England shuts down

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vestas Wind Systems confirmed yesterday that its plant in Newport, Isle of Wight, England has closed. The workers employed there have received their redundancy notices.

425 jobs were lost in the factory closure and that of Vestas's Southampton facility, with a further 40 employees beginning work at Vestas's research & development facility on the island and 57 staying on to help close the factory down. Initial estimates had said that 575 jobs would be lost in the Newport and Southampton facilities' closure, with a further 50 lost in the closure of facilities elsewhere on the Isle of Wight.

The Newport plant had originally been planned to close on July 31. From July 20, it was the site of an eighteen-day occupation in which a group of Vestas workers entered the plant and lived in it, refusing to leave until the company offered a better redundancy package or until the government nationalised the plant, which is the only major producer of wind turbines in the United Kingdom. The closure comes shortly after Joan Ruddock, Britain's Minister for Climate Change, stated in an interview that the British government would not pursue nationalisation.

Vestas attribute the shutdown of the plant to insufficient demand in the United Kingdom due to difficulties in obtaining planning permission for on-shore wind farms, and closed the plant in part of a 1,900-job closure affecting facilities both in Britain and in the company's home country of Denmark. The president of Vestas's blades division called the closures "absolutely necessary to secure Vestas' competitiveness and create a regional balance between production and the demand for wind turbines". Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel, meanwhile, told The Guardian that he was "not ruling out" restoring the redundancy packages to the 11 occupiers who were terminated while taking part in the occupation. "The last thing that we wanted was to have this confrontation", Engel said.

A number of protest camps remain at Vestas facilities across the Isle of Wight, including outside the Newport factory, and seven anarcho-environmentalist protesters are living atop the roof of the Vestas facility at Venture Quays. A number of Vestas employees spent Wednesday speaking at solidarity meetings throughout the United Kingdom arranged by members of the informal coalition of left, environmentalist and trade union groups which sprung up to support the Vestas employees after the closure was announced.


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