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Vestas turbine dispute escalates

The future of the UK’s only factory for producing wind turbines - the Vestas wind turbine factory in the Isle of Wight - remains in the balance, as the company maintains that production is: “too low” to remain viable.

25 Vestas employees have occupied the Newport factory since 20 July but the RMT Union, which represents the Vestas workers, urged the government to intervene to prevent the closure. It says the company’s justification for the closure - that demand for turbines in the UK “is too low” is: “totally bogus.”

On Monday, the government announced that banks had started lending £1bn to build new wind turbines, including a £6M grant for Vestas to invest in its research centre on the Isle of Wight. This money would not, however, prevent the factory from closing.

Vestas are this morning seeking a possession order against the staff occupying the Isle of Wight factory. A company statement read: “Despite the UK government’s strong commitment to renewable energy - which was reconfirmed on 15 July 2009 by its Low Carbon Transition Plan - the local planning process for the construction of new onshore wind power plants in the UK remains an obstacle to the development of a more favourable market for onshore wind power.

“Since offshore wind power is still on a project basis, a large and stable market for onshore wind power is vital to secure a stable production flow,” it read.

The RMT cite a survey by the British Wind Energy Association. which suggests that 2700 new wind turbines will be needed by 2012. The government suggests 10,000 turbines will be needed by 2020.

Vestas sacked 11 staff last night. According to the RMT, the company smuggled the dismissal letters into the occupied factory by hiding them in pizza boxes – a move the RMT say is: “cowardly”.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “The arguments used for closing Vestas on the Isle of Wight, that UK demand for wind turbines is too low, have today been exposed as totally bogus and on those grounds alone the Government should step in to save this factory and the 625 skilled manufacturing jobs before it is too late.

“Vestas have had millions in government subsidies and this week scooped up another £7 million in R&D money just days before they are due to close their only UK factory. They have touted themselves around like corporate prostitutes, sucking up taxpayers money while moving to dump their UK force on the scrap heap and that’s a scandal.

“Yesterday, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson talked about “our low-carbon industrial future”. Today, the government have the chance to walk the talk, to step in and nationalise Vestas and save green jobs at the UK’s only wind turbine factory. They cannot sit idly by while a factory that UK wind energy production will need for the future is ripped apart,” he said.

Readers' comments (2)

  • kleboe

    Closing the factory sounds incredibly short-sighted if there is commercial opportunity. Is there more to this story perhaps?

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  • Vestas is a multi national company. They have invested and gained the expertise to build wind turbines. We in the UK could be their biggest customer. If 70% of the jobs related to future wind farms are not sourced by UK companies they can stick theit turbines where fresh air does not blow. Siemens is always linked with Vestas, who is doing what to who? If Vestas pulls out of UK manufacture we in the UK should dump Siemens and Vestas. The Thames Array, valued at £2 billion ,should be the start.No Jobs. No Way Vestas.

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