TUC General Council members gave a good welcome to lobbying locked out Gate Gourmet workers yesterday morning. A number promised to attend the anniversary march, rally and celebration of one year of struggle by the locked out workers, in Southall on August 20th.
800 workers were locked out and sacked on August 10th 2005, and replaced by scabs in a planned operation by Gate Gourmet.
They were able to tell General Council members yesterday that their struggle had forced Gate Gourmet to issue an apology to a number of the sacked workers, but that the company had refused to re-employ them citing, as a reason, the points system that the TGWU leaders had drawn up with the company to decide who should be made compulsorily redundant.
They also reported that the same TGWU leaders, who had arbitrarily stopped their hardship pay on January 16, had now been forced to pledge to give them their hardship pay for the month of February. They told general council members that hardship pay could not be turned off, then on, then off again like a tap. They rightly demanded that their hardship money be paid up to date and that the TGWU union leaders agree that it must be paid monthly till the dispute is over.
Over the last year the locked out workers have fought in the most exemplary fashion, in contrast to the strike breaking conduct of their leaders.
When the workers were locked out on August 10th, the baggage handlers at Heathrow walked out in their support, crashing BA’s shares. With the company on its knees, the TGWU Woodley leadership instructed the baggage handlers to go back.
When subsequently two of the baggage handlers’ shop stewards were sacked, the TGWU took no action in their defence.
The TGWU then refused to make the locked out workers’ dispute official. The most that Woodley would do was to declare that all workers would be returned to their jobs before any deal was made.
Just days after this Tony Woodley declaration, the union began to negotiate just how many compulsory redundancies Gate Gourmet required.
At the same time, Woodley the cynic moved a resolution at the TUC Congress in Brighton calling on the trade unions to take every action short of illegal action to win the dispute and restore workers to their jobs.
Two weeks after this, Woodley and Brendan Barber of the TUC agreed the Compromise Agreement with Gate Gourmet. This deal was never put to a ballot of the locked out workers. Under it there were to be at least 140 compulsory redundancies and hundreds of voluntary redundancies.
Under it, before a single worker could get a single penny piece of compensation, every worker would have to sign the Compromise Agreement and give up all of their rights to go to an Employment Tribunal or take legal action against the company.
Also under the deal, every sacked worker had to agree never to seek work with Gate Gourmet again or with any company associated with it. Also all workers reinstated had to agree to work according to the company’s survival plan, agreed by the union, and under which wages have been cut and production almost doubled.
Hundreds of workers refused to sign this slaves charter.
The TGWU leaders then piled on the pressure to make workers sign the Compromise Agreement.
Those who would not sign were threatened that their hardship money would be stopped, which it was on January 16th.
Workers were told in writing that they would only receive hardship money if they signed the Compromise Agreement, giving up all of their trade union rights. The TGWU leaders had become enforcers for Gate Gourmet!
Over 100 workers have resisted this pressure and are going to the Employment Tribunals in September. They have now forced the union leaders to make a hardship payment, and are demanding that the dispute be made official, and that the August 20th anniversary demonstration be turned into a massive march by the whole trade union movement to show the cheap labour employers that they will not win.
We call upon the whole of the trade union movement to march with them so that they win their dispute and win their jobs back on their old terms and conditions.