Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 14:28 UK

Turbine factory shuts over sit-in

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Workers at the Vestas wind turbine factory stage a sit-in protest

A sit-in protest by about 25 workers has closed the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight.

Danish company Vestas Windsystems plans to lay off 625 workers at the end of July, despite rising profits.

The protestors said police in riot gear entered the Newport factory and were outside the occupied office.

Those inside the first-floor office said they would stay until "someone listens". Vestas said consultation on the site's future was continuing.

The company said the factory was being closed due to reduced demand for wind turbines in northern Europe.

The workers, who began their protest at about 1930 BST on Monday, are now calling on Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, to travel to the island and speak to them "face-to-face".

They have previously called for government action to preserve jobs at a time when ministers are pledging a commitment to renewable energy.

It is our last-ditch attempt to save the jobs
Protester

Police said about 200 workers were protesting outside the factory after being turned away when they arrived earlier but management have been allowed inside.

The protesters have locked themselves in a first floor office and claimed no members of management had come to talk to them.

A demonstrator, who did not want to be named, said police in riot gear had gathered outside the office.

He said: "It is our last-ditch attempt to save the jobs.

"This is a green industry and the government keep harping on about how much they want to get all these hundreds of thousands of green jobs going.

Police outside the Vestas offices
The workers entered the offices at about 1930 BST

"The government offered to give Vestas money to keep it going, but apparently Vestas turned this down."

He said those inside had slept on the floor overnight with people doing shifts to stay up and guard the doors.

People had been passing food up to a balcony, he added.

But a worker who was unable to enter the factory earlier told the BBC: "I admire what they are trying to do but I don't think it will come to much.

"I think my prospects are pretty grim."

Police officers are in attendance at the protest, which was described as peaceful. No arrests have been made.

Insp Paul Savill said: "Police would step in if there was criminal activity, but the protest has remained peaceful so we don't believe that action is necessary.

"However some civil court action is being taken by Vestas to get an injunction, but that's not a thing the police are involved with."

Consultation continuing

A spokesman said specialist officers had gathered outside but denied they were riot police.

Insp Saville said: "We drafted in extra resources from the mainland and entered the building using precautionary equipment which was considered necessary to protect officers but was then not required.

"Officers have been using the building as an operations base and, along with Vestas staff, are maintaining discussions with the protestors."

Vestas said in a statement it would not comment due to the ongoing consultation process.

A number of climate change protesters have also set up camp outside the factory in support of the workers inside.

The Vestas factory is set to shut at the end of July with the loss of 525 jobs at the blade manufacturing and research plant at Newport, and a further 100 in Southampton.

The news of the job cuts came as the organisation, which is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, reported a quarterly sales rise of 59% to 1.11bn euros.

Vestas is one of the largest employers of skilled labour on the island.


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