This morning I was handed a flier by a nice man standing outside Brighton station: “Vestas Workers fight to defend their jobs and the environment.” Featured on it, that photo of the two workers clenching fists above the banner that reads, “Forced to occupy to save our jobs.” An old blogging colleague of mine Justin aka Chicken Yoghurt was at the Isle of Wight yesterday and took the photo above.
Three points to make:
One. This is a pivotal protest that’s not going to go away in a hurry. It’s about the gap in what the government say they’re going to do – Ed Miliband’s fine white paper and the 2008 Climate Bill – and the absence of any real infrastructure to achieve those carbon goals. It’s about how the most substantial part of Gordon Brown’s “green recovery” plan has been the looking-glass scheme to scrap cars before they need to be scrapped. Vestas is closing because of “lack of demand”. It is absurd that, at this late stage, there is lack of demand. To blame that lack of demand on Conservative councils turning down planning applications for wind turbines as Ed Miliband does in his response to LabourList’s Alex Smith is the “dog ate my homework excuse” – a silly attempt to turn this into a divisive party political issue.
Two. This protest has to watch out it doesn’t unfold to a dangerous script. The lockout has quickly turned it into a workers versus employers dispute, in the mould of Grunwick and Wapping. Not only do those disputes traditionally end very badly, but this script kind of misses the point. However poorly the employers may have acted towards the workers, and their contradictory statements that they’re closing for “lack of demand” and that the factory makes “the wrong type of blade” for Britain indicates a certain slipperiness, they too are victims of the government’s failure to support demand for renewables. This should be about how the goverment needs to pull its finger out.
Three. Last year’s meeting between the National Union of Miners and Climate Camp protestors showed how far adrift most eco-protestors were from workplace politics and how little they understood the more old-school union levers of power. This is a chance to learn how to build bridges instead of burning them.