Action not words required to win Gate Gourmet struggle

Gate Gourmet locked out workers on their successful lobby of the TUC last Monday morning
Gate Gourmet locked out workers on their successful lobby of the TUC last Monday morning

LAST Thursday afternoon, at a meeting attended by TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, TGWU leader Tony Woodley told the Gate Gourmet shop stewards that the company wanted a large number of redundancies.

He advised that those who wanted to return to work should seek to do so, but that it would be under new terms and conditions, that they had previously rejected. He added that Gate Gourmet workers would never return to work on their old terms and conditions.

The TGWU leader adopted the shameful position of advising workers to surrender to what he has repeatedly called a ‘bandit capitalist’.

Two weeks ago, Woodley pledged to workers that they had all come out together, and he would see to it that they would all return to work together. That pledge has now been ripped up in favour of outright surrender.

On Friday afternoon, the TGWU publicised a letter which it had sent to the Labour government’s Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alan Johnson.

The letter was signed by the general secretary of the TUC, Barber, and Woodley and the leaders of the Amicus, Unison, and GMB trade unions, and had the support of the general council of the TUC.

The letter urged ‘the Labour government to strengthen employment legislation to avoid a repeat of the Gate Gourmet dispute’.

The trade union leaders are already talking about the Gate Gourmet dispute in the past tense, as if it is all over.

The TGWU statement added that, in their letter the trade union leaders ‘call for the government to progress the EU directive on temporary agency labour, a key commitment from the Warwick agreement prior to the general election, and to look at the possibility of introducing emergency or retrospective legislation for justice for the Gate Gourmet workers.’

The TUC leaders might as well demand blood from a stone as demand emergency legislation from Blair to get justice for the locked out Gate Gourmet workers.

This is just an evasion of their own responsibilities.

The letter adds: ‘It cannot be acceptable in modern-day Britain that a ruthless employer can turn on the most vulnerable workers in this way with impunity. . .’

But the policy of Woodley and Barber has been to accept that this ruthless employer, a ‘bandit capitalist’, can trample on the workers, and to do nothing about it except to advise workers to surrender and return to work under terms that they have already rejected. At this TUC conference they are seeking to get the support of the General Council of the TUC and Congress itself for this policy for cowards.

The TGWU adds: ‘The T&G will be leading the calls for change in employment legislation at TUC Congress (Monday 12th – Thursday 15th September) and at Labour Party Conference (Sunday 25th – Thursday 29th September).’

The TUC Congress must call to order those trade union leaders who are advising the Gate Gourmet workers to surrender, and want to make some demands on the Blair government to try to cover their treacherous tracks.

Congress must take up the gauntlet that the bandit capitalists are throwing down.

The TGWU must make the dispute official and the TUC Congress must call a general strike on the vital issue of the right of the workers not to be ambushed by a ‘bandit capitalist’ and to have their lives, and the lives of their families, smashed.

It is time for the TUC Congress to put an end to the grovelling before the bosses and the government.

The TUC Congress must call strike action to win the Gate Gourmet dispute.