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Page last updated at 17:16 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 18:16 UK
Life after Vestas - what next?
The protests at Vestas lasted for 18 days
The protests at Vestas lasted for 18 days

For 18 days, the Vestas protestors held the attention of the world's media when they blockaded themselves inside the wind turbine factory in Newport.

Although the campaign to save the factory continues, the former employees have to turn their attention to their own future job prospects.

Some now face unemployment, others re-training or launching new business ventures.

With the economic recession, it is an uncertain time ahead for many.

Penny Draper
Penny Draper
Penny Draper is hoping to benefit from an Isle of Wight tourism boom

Penny Draper, 34, worked for Vestas for three years. After hearing about the protests, Penny's first thoughts were of support: "Thank goodness someone's done something - I felt proud someone had made a stand. I thought 'good for them'."

She joined in the marches and rallies supporting the protesters and regularly dropped off food and water.

Along with her husband, who had also left Vestas, they sold their house and put their redundancy money into buying a bed and breakfast business.

"We wanted to make something positive from it. We needed something that will be sustainable and we saw that island tourism was up 40% and we wanted to be a part of that."

Her husband has also just got a job as a butcher at Morrisons supermarket.

"We'll both have to keep part-time jobs while it's set up - we'll never be rich from it but it'll facilitate a better lifestyle." said Penny.

Two months later Penny says it is going really well: "We're decorating and we have installed two en-suites. It is good to see it coming together and seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We're aiming to open next season."

Penny has found the part-time job she needed at her local pub: "It's because of being at Vestas that I got the job, because they gave me some training that meant I could become a personal license holder - I have Vestas to thank for that.

"It is not as good money as I was paid before, but at least I am working again."

Colin Hugill
Colin Hugill
Colin Hugill had never been involved in any kind of protest before

Colin Hugill, 51, joined the occupation of the factory. He says the protests changed him as a person:

"I'd never been part of a trade union, I'd never protested against anything. The guys went onto the balcony and I went down just to find out what was going on and felt it was the right thing to do.

"We were being treated unfairly. It's a much bigger thing than just 600 people made unemployed. There are so many issues around it."

Colin is planning to start a business as an energy consultant, improving energy efficiency in homes. His experience has made him more passionate about the need for renewable energy and wind turbines in particular.

"I've a totally different outlook - the silent majority should start speaking out. We actually need these things," he said.

Tracey Yeates
Tracey Yeates
Tracey Yeates had worked for Vestas for more than two years.

For 46-year-old Tracey Yeates who had worked for two-and-a-half years in the finishing department, supporting the occupation was also a whole new experience.

"They gave everyone some inspiration - we could see we could all do something and fight to get the lads reinstated and keep some manufacturing jobs on the island. It's not just about us, it's about the whole island," she said.

"We can keep it going - we need to make sure we don't just walk away. I've just given a talk about the campaign in Norwich - never thought I'd do that."

With a son and daughter in their early 20s also looking for work, she admits the future looks uncertain.

"It's a very worrying time for our family - it's not a situation I thought we'd ever find ourselves in. The job market is so tough at the moment," she said.

Steve Stotesbury
Steve Stotesbury
Steve Stotesbury is concerned about meeting his mortgage payments

Steve Stotesbury, 29, worked for three years manufacturing the wind turbines. He remembers the meeting when employees were told about the company's intentions:

"There were 500 people in the room - I've never heard 500 people so quiet - it was very eerie. I just thought 'what am I going to do now?'"

"I realised my chances of other employment were very slim so I had to save my job. If I put your head above the parapet I knew I could lose everything I've worked hard for.

"But sometimes you have to stand up and make some noises. I'm very, very glad I did. This will stay with me for the rest of my life."

However he admits that with a mortgage to pay (which he took on assuming he had a "job for life" in the renewable energy sector), he may have to move away from his home to gain employment.

"I'm really in the mire. Being an islander I'd very much like to stay - but my main priority is keeping up my mortgage payments. I will do what I have to do, even emigrate, but the Island has so much to offer in terms of lifestyle - I will go willingly, but I will go sadly."

David Arbuthnott
David Arbuthnott
David Arbuthnott spent 18 days in the plant during the occupation

David Arbuthnott was an experienced shop floor worker who was also part of the 19-day occupation.

The 49-year-old says he is staying with the campaign "for the long haul".

"It started to highlight the need for green jobs on the island. There was 600 highly paid jobs going, so if people want to protect their economy they need to stand up and do something."

He has since continued the protest by constructing a barricade at the doors Vestas, to prevent blades leaving the factory. Dave remained on the scaffolding structure for 13 hours.

From the beginning Dave has been philosophical about his future. Having lost his redundancy when he was sacked by Vestas.

"I've gained nothing so I've nothing to lose ... we'll see how it goes," he said.

Nearly two months later, Dave still has no work and remains on the dole.

He has started a carpentry and joinery college course to try and help his job prospects, which at the moment he claims are "nil."

This has made life tough for Dave: "I've been living 90% of my time on a roundabout because I can't afford to pay my rent."

Follow the lives of the former Vestas employees on BBC Radio Solent's Julian Clegg Breakfast Show and here on the BBC Hampshire and Isle of Wight website.


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