[Originally published at Red, Green and Blue] Twenty-five workers holed-up in the Vestas facility on the UK's Isle of Wight for about a week now may have saved their jobs if a proposed deal is agreed upon by both parties. But even if the deal does go through, only a small portion of the workers will keep their jobs as the funding is only enough to keep the company's offshore research and development division alive. The majority of the over six hundred employees at the two closing Vestas plants will be losing their jobs.
The sluggish turbine market and political opposition to large-scale wind development in the UK are being cited as reasons for the plant closures by Vestas officials. Company officials said they would likely be shifting production of its onshore turbines to its facilities in Colorado.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband told the BBC: "I'm very sorry for the people who may be losing their jobs in the Isle of Wight."
"We've announced £6m today to help Vestas build a research and development facility into offshore wind which should employ around 150 people," said Milliband.
The workers, who are not members of a union, began their sit-in protest on 20 July. But a few days into the action, local unions including The Rail Maritime and Transport union and the Respect party showed their solidarity with the protesting workers inside the offices and have offered support for the workers by representing them in upcoming court appearances, organizing protest activities, handling donations, etc.
The 25-workers continue to occupy the Vestas administrative offices as of Monday night. A court order will be sought by Vestas to regain control of the factory when they meet with representatives of the non-union workers on Wednesday.
Even if the majority of the Vestas workers do lose their jobs right now, the workers should be lauded for their courage. That kind of stuff just doesn't happen in the United States. You occupy a place of work that is going to close down, you go to jail. Plain and simple. It is rare that you see direct actions like these actually work in the U.S.
One system is not necessarily better than the other. But Brits and Europeans are used to a strong, active labor presence and direct actions that take people and institutions out of their comfort zones. They are used to groups and individuals employing strong, direct action to achieve social, economic and environmental goals.
And finally, they are used to the government taking one on the chin every now and again for the public good.