A fight worth having

Kate Ferguson interviews Ian Terry, a 23-year-old wind turbine worker involved in the occupation of the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight

October 21, 2009
5 min read

How did Vestas first break the news that the factory was going to be closed?

The company held a meeting of all 600 of us at the factory. They brought someone from high up in the company from Copenhagen to break the news. Up until that point we had been told that we were getting an upgrade for the factory and that our jobs were secure. It was a shock when they told us, no one was expecting it.

What was people’s reaction to the closure?

It was a very bullying management at Vestas, so initially people didn’t think there was much they could do. Since Vestas took over the factory there has been a culture of intimidation and fear here; a number of people have been sacked for minor misdemeanours after they joined a union. On the Isle of Wight mistreatment of workers is very common. But it became obvious that we needed to take action if we were going to get anywhere. Some of the workers from the Visteon car parts plant, who had occupied their factory, came down to meet us. We started talking, and held a small meeting to discuss how to launch our occupation soon after.

What were conditions like when you were occupying?

It was a surreal experience. Initially Vestas brought in security guards, who stopped us from getting any food in – although that soon stopped once the media picked up on it. The factory was very uncomfortable. We had sleeping bags because we had been planning the occupation for a while, but we had to put them on the floor and there were no showers. I took a camera in too, mainly for safety – to make sure the police stayed within the law and didn’t drag us out.

We kept sane by keeping organised – we had regular meetings – and finding ways of relaxing. We even made a musical when we were in there, about the occupation and what it was like inside the factory. It’s only half finished but it’s already a big hit with the rest of the workers and is soon to be YouTube’d.

You were one of the employees sacked for taking part in the protest. How did you feel when you received the letter?

It was quite liberating in a way – the decision was made for me that I would have to stay and fight. There was nothing left to lose now, they had taken it all away. My redundancy package was pitiful anyway, only £2,500, and I would pay that any day to have this cause in front of me now. I care about the environment and the local economy and this fight is worth having.

Your occupation attracted a great deal of attention, both from the national press and the ‘red-green’ coalition of protesters who supported you. Were you expecting that?

We knew it would be big, but we didn’t know how big. It has so many different strands to it that people can support: it’s a workers’ struggle, a local campaign, a fight for green energy. There’s something for everyone. I didn’t think the left would work with the greens on such a large scale, even though for them both to exist they need each other, so it was brilliant to see. We’ve also received a lot of support from local people. In a lot of ways it is a very local struggle.

It appears that the government was engaged in a secret behind-the-scenes effort to rescue the factory, but that the company rejected all the proposals. What do you make of these efforts?

We are campaigning for full nationalisation of the factory, so we weren’t satisfied with the government’s efforts, or its secretive approach. We are still fighting for compulsory purchase – it’s doable and it should be done. We need a national initiative in green energy led by a government with teeth.

The government has pledged to create 400,000 new green jobs. What impact do you think this occupation has had on Labour’s green credentials?

Vestas has been awarded £6 million by the government to build a new research facility on the Isle of Wight. It is completely unacceptable to give this amount to a profitable company that just sacked 600 people. A balance has to be struck with the local community, otherwise the government can claim to be working for a sustainable future, but in reality they are sending a load of people to the Jobcentre.

What’s next for the campaign?

We are launching a national day of action and we are calling for anybody and everybody to take some action in support. It could be a big gesture, like occupying a factory for 24 hours, or something smaller like everyone taking their tea break at the same time. This isn’t just our fight, it’s everybody’s.

Visit http://savevestas.wordpress.com for updates on the workers\’ campaign


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History