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UK Vestas staff occupy Vestas wind turbine blade factory on Isle of Wight

Staff at the Vestas wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight has started an occupation of the factory in response to Vestas’ plans to cut 1900 jobs in Northern Europe announced in April.

The occupation began on Monday 20 July, and Vestas says it has now decided to dismiss the 11 employees participating in the industrial action at the wind turbine blade factory.

In April, Vestas announced it had to lay off the staff, primarily based in Denmark and the UK, following the failure of Northern European markets to meet expectations due to the credit crunch, weak currencies and a “lack of political action in certain markets”.

Vestas has already made signification investments in a production base in the USA, and this has caused a surplus in the Northern European facilities that used to serve the US market. The Isle of Wight wind turbine blade factory, for instance, has seen all its V82 wind turbine blades exported to the US in recent years.

Last year, Vestas said it would convert the Isle of Wight factory to produce 44 m blades for the V90 turbine, said to be well suited to the UK onshore and offshore wind market. However, despite plans from the UK Government to invest in renewables – emphasised again in the July Low Carbon Transition Plan – the UK remains “an obstacle to the development of a more favourable market for onshore wind power,” Vestas says. The major obstacle appears to be planning consent – something the industry has warned against time and time again, Renewable Energy Focus notes.

R&D facility

Vestas says it will still proceed with its research and development plans on the Isle of Wight. A new wind turbine blade technology centre will be established on the island capable of designing, manufacturing prototypes and testing some of the world’s largest wind turbine blades. It is expected to open in 2011 and currently employs 110 people – this could be expanded to 150 jobs by the end of the year.

The UK Government is intending to support the R&D centre, and Vestas says that “if this market [UK] develops into a strong and stable market, Vestas will consider investing in new manufacturing capacity in the UK”.

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