TGWU leader Tony Woodley’s speech at Southall on Monday, and his remarks to journalists both before and after the meeting, were a dereliction of his duty, as the general secretary of the TGWU, to the locked out Gate Gourmet workers, to win their life and death struggle to keep their jobs at wages on which they can keep their families.
His blasé, some you win and some you lose approach and his open public doubts about whether the ‘venture capitalists’ of Gate Gourmet could be beaten and a ‘total victory’ achieved, were in fact an insult to the mass audience of locked out workers and their families who have been showing the most enormous combativity.
The least that the strikers expected was a declaration from him that the dispute would be made official and that they would receive strike pay – they did not get even that.
Instead, they got a declaration that he was working for an ‘honest compromise’.
Despite his words about the dispute being an ‘important question for our country and the government of our country’, and the words of TUC general secretary Brendan Barber that the whole country supported the locked out workers, and that the TUC was giving them 100 per cent support, there was no pledge to organise this support to win ‘total victory’, or no demand made that the Labour government should nationalise the plant.
The leaders of the TGWU and the TUC refused to pledge that there would be support forthcoming from the trade unions nationally.
The TUC leader, pointedly, did not pledge that it would show its 100 per cent support by collecting hundreds of thousands of pounds, up and down the country, to sustain the struggling workers.
The support of the two leaders was platonic and entirely passive. In fact, it was clear that they are using the dispute to make a bit of propaganda about how bad the anti-union laws are, but have not the slightest intention of standing up for their members by challenging the anti-union laws and calling action to win the dispute.
Woodley made this clear, finishing his speech by saying: ‘We have tens of thousands of members at BA and we want the classic compromise that suits everybody.’
This compromise is to be with a company that Woodley has called ‘bandit capitalists’, who want an entirely new labour force on much reduced wages and conditions, without any basic trade union organisation.
He has called on BA to purchase the company. BA have not the slightest intention of doing this. Instead, they have said that they want a programme of wage cuts and speed-ups carried through at the plant.
The only kind of compromise possible here is a rotten compromise, where a part of the workforce is allowed back, on much reduced wages and working conditions, and where Gate Gourmet is allowed to operate its blacklist against trade unionists.
This rotten compromise must be rejected. Woodley, and the TGWU leaders must be told that what is required is not talk but action. The union leaders have not taken a single action in support of the locked out workers. Since they are not prepared to call such action, they must resign and make way for leaders who will.
Meanwhile, the locked out Gate Gourmet workers must turn to the only force that has greatly assisted their struggle and given it great power, the BA workers at Heathrow.
They must call them out once again, this time alongside all of the workers at Heathrow to stop all of the airlines using the airport.
This is the only language that Gate Gourmet, BA and the government understand.
This is the only way to bring them to their knees, to win the dispute and achieve the ‘total victory’ the workers want, and the sooner it is done the better it will be.
It is either this or a very rotten compromise.