Monday, August 03, 2009

Dear Ed, about Vestas, ... erm ...

So, you are the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, which makes you a (even the) leading spokesperson for workers in Britain. In the midst of a recession, hundreds of jobs are to be lost as a factory closes on the Isle of Wight. Moreover, this is a wind turbine factory, and so plays an important role in the transition to environmentally-friendly energy production that is so desperately needed. The workers get organised, occupy the factory, attract loads of support from across the union movement, and what do you do ...?

Well, the one good thing that can be said for Brendan Barber is that he has written to Ed Miliband saying that he thinks that efforts should be made to keep Vestas open. Bravo. Better than not writing a letter, I'm sure.

But the letter - copied below - is at pains to praise the government's efforts so far (what efforts?!) and conspicuously avoids either mentioning the workers' occupation of the factory or suggesting even tentatively that the government might possibly consider bring the factory into public ownership.

With union leaders like this, the bosses must be quaking in their boots (not).

Dear Ed

Vestas Wind Systems

As you are aware, the TUC shares your absolute commitment to tackle climate change, including through the development of a low carbon industrial strategy with quality green jobs and skills at its heart.

I am sure that you also share our frustration and dismay about the planned end to production at the Vestas wind turbine facility on the Isle of Wight – the only one of its size in Britain – which would result in the loss of over 600 jobs directly, and many more through the supply chain. In the context of a growing global urgency to cut carbon emissions, it would be difficult to find a more damning example of market failure, or of corporate inflexibility, than one such as this which threatens the viability of existing UK based green energy manufacturing, and the livelihoods of a skilled and dedicated workforce.

I want to acknowledge the considerable efforts you have already made to intervene in respect of the planned closure of the Vestas plant, to secure investment and to tackle the barriers to renewable energy market growth. However, I am sure you understand that unions, and the members they represent in the Vestas workforce, will want to feel sure that no stone has been left unturned in our bid to find an alternative that would protect green manufacturing skills and jobs on the island and elsewhere.

Even at this late stage we believe that Vestas should be pressed to halt its closure plan to give time for proper dialogue and for every possible alternative to be fully explored. I would also ask Government to urgently bring together business, unions and industry experts with a view to securing a future for wind turbine production in the UK, and so that the lessons of Vestas can be learned and never allowed to happen again.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely

Brendan Barber
General Secretary

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