BA seeks to put the boot into Heathrow workers

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BA is seeking to put the boot into its workforce at Heathrow to create a climate of intimidation and fear.

It has announced in its weekly newsletter that it has set up a hotline so that finks can inform on the 1,000 baggage handlers, bus drivers and cargo workers who took strike action in support of the locked out Gate Gourmet workers.

BA is claiming that the workers were intimidated into taking the strike action, and is looking for the names of the intimidators to be delivered to them, no doubt anonymously, so that the company can ‘punish’ them.

In an open letter, BA chief executive Eddington, also pledged that ‘appropriate action would be taken against those who had taken strike action’ after a BA investigation.

He made no bones about the fact that the giant company was rocked to its foundations by the sympathy stoppage, saying: ‘Never before have we had to cancel the entire operation at our worldwide base.’

Eddington added that: ‘Those who took unofficial industrial action at British Airways acted in an unlawful way’ inflicting ‘a body blow that defies belief’.

He concluded by scotching a favoured TGWU proposal for ‘resolving’ the Gate Gourmet struggle by stating that BA would not buy Gate Gourmet.

A Transport and General Workers’ Union spokesman said the union had made its position ‘extremely clear’. It agreed with the company that the ‘unofficial action was unlawful’ and the union had immediately said that it ‘could not support it’ and had complied with BA’s demand for it to ‘repudiate that action’.

The union confirmed that if all workers were reinstated, it would work with the company on securing voluntary redundancies and the cost-cutting it needed.

The company had said its needs were to make labour savings of £14 million a year at the site, where it lost £25 million last year.

However facts are stubborn things. The facts are that Gate Gourmet planned to provoke a strike at its Heathrow plant so that it could sack its workforce and replace them with scab cheap labour.

BA has, so far, not denied allegations that it had been informed by Gate Gourmet about this plan.

The company duly provoked an action by the workforce and then sacked it, locking it out of the plant.

The master plan was then thrown back by the splendid sympathy stoppage at the airport which cost BA millions and prevented Gate Gourmet moving in the replacement contract labourers that it had hired.

The sympathy strike at Heathrow and the action by the Gate Gourmet workers was not illegal. The anti-union laws are directed at unions and stipulate what unions can and cannot do, as far as the ruling class courts are concerned. They are not directed at groups of workers who may choose to walk off the job as individuals.

That the TGWU leaders label such actions as illegal shows just how desperate they are to come to the aid of the bosses.

By declaring the sympathy stoppage to be illegal and demanding that the workers return to work, Woodley rescued Gate Gourmet and BA and dealt a blow to the locked out workers.

The union leaders since then have refused to make the dispute official, and have refused to make any dispute payments to the locked out workers. They have been told that they cannot have any union money because their stoppage was illegal.

Tony Woodley is looking for a settlement that will leave the majority of the workforce sacked, and deliver the wage cuts and the speed-ups that the bosses want.

So desperate is he to conclude the struggle that he told the pickets last Wednesday that they will win or lose within two weeks.

He is actively working to sell his members out in the most disgraceful way, but in line with his previous conduct at Vauxhall Motors and MG Rover – which he helped to close.

There is only one way that this struggle can be won. This is for the Gate Gourmet shop stewards committee to appeal to the whole Heathrow airport workforce to take sympathy action in support of the Gate Gourmet workers and the BA workers, who are now under ‘investigation’ by Eddington.

They must also appeal to all TGWU members at all of the UK’s airports to stop work in sympathy with them, otherwise they will be next.

BA must be shown that the price for allowing Gate Gourmet workers to be sacked, and then for planning mass sackings of the baggage and cargo workers, will be too heavy for it to pay and that it must settle.

Above all, the TGWU trade union must have a new leadership. Woodley and his clique must be forced to resign. The union needs a leadership that fights for its membership, not one that does the dirty work for the bosses.