Protest site turbine factory officially shuts

Posted on 13 Aug 2009 by The Manufacturer

Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has formally closed the Isle of Wight site that has been occupied over the last few weeks by protesting workers set for redundancy.

The company is moving the turbine blade production from the site to the US. The site was officially declared shut yesterday when it was confirmed that 425 jobs are lost..

For the previous 18 days up to August 7, 11 of those workers had occupied offices at the factory in protest. They were forced to leave when courts gave bailiffs the right to evict them. Their efforts were rewarded with widespread media interest and are accredited with bringing the issue to a wider public audience, potentially leading to more of the original 625 jobs being saved than would have otherwise been the case.

“We feel that we have won a moral victory,” said one of the protesters on leaving the building.

“We, the taxpayer, have had to bail out the banks – an industry that’s not working,” said another. “The renewable sector is something that has got to work.”

Vestas is blaming red tape involved in UK onshore wind farm proposals which it says makes the country an unfeasible base for manufacture. A company statement said: “The UK has very favourable wind conditions, but the present market is not large enough to justify the required investment to convert the Isle of Wight factory to produce blades for the UK market,”

“The decision to close the factory was very difficult, and we fully recognise the impact this will have on employees, their families and on the Isle of Wight,” added Ole Borup Jakobsen, president of Vestas Blades. “Nonetheless, this commercial decision was absolutely necessary to secure Vestas’ competitiveness and create a regional balance between production and the demand for wind turbines.”

Unions and green campaigners had wanted government to step in with support measures to save the site, saying its closure contradicts government’s vision of a low carbon future for Britain and the promise of thousands of green jobs. However no Whitehall support was forthcoming

Only the Vestas research and development facility will remain on the Island, though this is being expanded to accommodate 40 of the employees from the production facility who would have otherwise lost their jobs. A further 57 are to be kept on for the next few months in order to help close the site.

Vestas says it will help the redundant 425 to find new jobs. “We understand and have sympathy that employees are deeply affected by the closure,” it said.