Friday, 31 July 2009

Wombles versus Clangers: requiem

Pop quiz.

What is really, really, really silly? And...

Tragic. Stupid. Wasteful?

Vestas workers fight on after eviction attempt fails

Danish owners of wind turbine company unable to force workers out of Isle of Wight factory

Paul Lewis, Wednesday 29 July 2009

Workers occupying a wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight vowed to continue their protest for another week today after a legal attempt to evict them quickly failed.

‘Eh-oh, Tinky Winky.’

‘Eh-oh, Laa-Laa.’

For the past nine days, about 20 workers have occupied the Vestas Wind Systems plant near Newport, which is due to close tomorrow. The company sought a possession order at Newport county court today in an attempt to remove the workers from the factory, where 625 staff are set to lose their jobs.

‘There’s trouble at t’ windmill mill, Mother

What kind of trouble, lad?’

Etc, etc…

But, adjourning the hearing until Tuesday, the judge, Graham White, said papers had not been properly served on individuals occupying the property.

Because, like, they weren’t on recyclable paper with, like, sustainable ink.

Papers were served last Thursday to Mark Smith, the one worker that the factory's Danish owners know for certain is occupying the factory.

Don’t those ignorant heathen Danes know that Mark Smith isn’t just a man?

He’s an icon. A legend; the voice of a generation; even though not much generation gets done because were talking windmills here.

In the court papers, Vestas named 13 individuals…

I will be the thirteenth Womble.

…and "persons unknown"...

Who was that masked electricity maker?

…it believed had occupied the office space in the building. Three of those are now thought to have left.

Intermittent service with dubious potential for success being kind of a feature of the windmill trade.

However, Adam Rosenthal, representing Vestas, conceded the company could not be sure who else had barricaded themselves inside the property.

Urging the judge to use his discretion to fast-track the possession order, Rosenthal said "emotions are running high"…

…Unlike the current that their product might someday generate if it blows a bit between the useful low speed and the practical highest speed.

On a peak demand time of day. And if it doesn’t break down.

…at the factory and there was a real risk of disturbance.

‘What do we want?’

Round, like a circle in a spiral Like a wheel within a wheel.

‘Never ending or beginning,On an ever spinning wheel

Like a snowball down a mountain Or a carnival balloon’

‘When do we want it?’

He said the police presence at the site was evidence of the risk of disorder.

Pc McGarry Number 452.

Judge White dismissed that argument, saying: "I see no evidence of any threat of violence to property or person by reason of the individuals who are occupying the property remaining there."

I for one would like to know just what this Solomonic public servant thinks of the legality or otherwise of occupying someone else’s property against their will but then I’m just an uptight square.

The judge added he was "distinctly uncomfortable" with the way the company was seeking to bring proceedings, which he described as an attempt to "get around the rules".

"I am not satisfied that any named person other than Mark Smith has been personally served," he said.

The adjournment resulted in celebrations for the occupying workers,

Picnics. All the womenfolk brought freshly made pies and cakes. Appalachian square dancing. Horseshoe-throwing. Accordions.



…who were told by mobile phone.

‘Hello. This is Gunaratna from the call centre. Can I be speaking to the main benefit claimant of the household, please?’

They had expected bailiffs to arrive soon after court proceedings.

"Everyone in here went absolutely ballistic," said one of the workers inside. "It's given us another week to spread the word and given our legal team time to strengthen the case."

Because it’s an absolute bedrock principle of British law that goes back to antiquity that if a private company’s losing money by employing people and making no sales of their only product, they’ve got to pay those people in perpetuity, right? It worked so well in the 1970s, right?

Although, he conceded that another six nights in the factory was "not a pleasant thought".

There is, no doubt, a terrible infestation of Isle of Wight turbine spiders and quite possibly a case of the Night Zombies, too.

Outside the court, about 200 protesters an alliance of local workers and environmental activists from the mainland also celebrated.

With lashings of ginger beer down The Welder and Tofu-herd, no doubt.

"We have just heard that the case has been adjourned to 4 August," Steve Stotesbury, a 29-year-old blade maker,

Don’t you just love those Olde English craftsmen and their ancient trades?

...announced to the crowd. "As we have said from the outset, this is a peaceful demonstration." He added: "We're extremely jubilant. This was the decision we were hoping for. It goes to show the fight is not over."

Extremely jubilant is good enough, and I for one can’t wait to see how this fight works out. Let us read on…

Workers at the site have recently signed up to the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which is supporting their campaign.

The union said today that its general secretary, Bob Crow, was meeting the energy secretary, Ed Miliband, to discuss the situation. Crow will then travel to the island to address the rally camping outside the factory.

Aside from the glamour of his exotic Native American name, one wonders how Crow is going to curry favour with Vesta.

"No one should underestimate the significance of the court throwing out Vestas' repossession application today," said Crow. "This is a significant victory which gives us more time to build the global campaign to save Vestas."

Perhaps you can invite the global campaigners to ante up and order a few wind turbines with their own money, or pay a tithe from their wages to finance the conversion of the factory’s production lines to build something that someone actually wants, such as,oh, I don’t know…helicopter blades?

More activists connected with the protest network Climate Camp joined the protest today, but not in the numbers the group had hoped for.

Ah. Perhaps not.

However, the dispute is proving embarrassing for the energy secretary, who a fortnight ago pledged to install 10,000 wind turbines by 2020.

Yeah, that’s interesting isn’t it? I mean, there’s some kind of apparent cleavage between the government stating that it will do a spectacular A in a bright and glorious imagined future, and at the same time doing nothing to prevent the failure of the real-world actual concrete already-extant B that seems to be Britain’s main agent that could support the aforementioned spectacular A.


The government has also promised to create thousands of "green jobs" of the kind that are being lost with the closure of the Vestas factory.

You know, I’m beginning to think that there might be some sort of terminological inexactitude going on here, or possibly incomplete communication and connection within the government at a fairly high level.

The company has said it is moving production of its blades to the United States because the market in the UK is not growing fast enough.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Mister Obama’ll help Vesta out, with a little help from his friends and millions and millions of willing taxpayers.

Vestas has been criticised for the way it informed the protesting workers that they had been sacked. The termination letters were delivered to the factory beneath slices of pizza.

Or slices of peregrine falcon, Frisbees, microlite pilots, stunt kites…

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh at many aspects of this story, but I’m not forgetting that this is a real and powerful human tragedy in which up to 600 families have just been told they’re going to lose their livelihoods.

I was unemployed for longish periods of time myself back in the 1980s – the previous time when a Labour government had spent a decade or so destroying the economy and then having to wait for the recession and the Tories to cure their mess and for new jobs to be created once it was over. And then there was the time I was made redundant by rationalizing companies twice in 5 months. A father and husband does not feel particularly humourous when he has to tell wife and daughter that the holidays and other treats are likely cancelled twice in a single year.

So these poor sods are losing their livelihoods at a bad and worsening time for the economy but the cure being demanded or implied is the disease itself.

One of the diseases.

Not only has our – for want of a better word – government been directing resources toward something that does not generate enough electricity to offset the construction costs of the machines themselves as far as I know, but which also take the money that might be used to build more generating capacity using more traditional methods of generation. You know; the ones that actually work, such as oil, coal, nuclear.

And of course while these subsidized monstrosities are being constructed, the money that subsidizes them isn’t being spend on consumer goods and isn’t being invested in non-white elephant manufacturing, and so the firms and individuals taxed to support Vesta’s ‘production’ are poorer.

Not as poor as they’re going to be when the lights start going out.

This is pure Left-wing politics. The machines don’t generate power for more than a fraction of their ‘working lives’, they need to be remotely arrayed away from cities so transmission costs and losses are greater, they look ugly as hell and spoil the view where they are sited remotely, and they soak up money, manpower, land, engineering expertise, and they’re going to help generate blackouts and brownouts for Labour’s schoolsnhospitals.

It is just about possible that making useless things at public cost might generate some or a lot of new technology (look at the early space race and particularly its military side), and to stimulate new plant building and skills training, but one wonders what ancient Egypt would have been like if it had spent all that pyramid-building stone and craftsmanship and labour on securing a larger empire, or new technology, or building manufacturing centres for consumer goods, or science instead of glorifying the deaths of a few rulers and burying wealth and blood in the sand.

Oh, and do despair – I mean, really despair, as the Tories are not coming to the rescue on this one.


James Higham said...

Sometimes I understand every word you write, NNWer. :)

I know there were wombles in here somewhere.

North Northwester said...

Yeah - we both need professional help, don't we? ;-)


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