YESTERDAY, the determination and militancy of the 670 Gate Gourmet locked-out workers forced the High Court judiciary to acknowledge that they did indeed have the right to picket the plant, and that their picket line was legal.
The judiciary was also forced to back off from the submission by the lawyers for Gate Gourmet that the militant demonstration of hundreds of locked-out workers, near the plant be declared illegal and be dispersed.
Justice Fulford observed: ‘The rights to peaceful assembly have a long and important history in our democratic system and a court will be slow to stop any of those who seek within the law to express their opposition to action that has some effect on their lives from doing so.’
With the whole world seething with anger at the way the Gate Gourmet strikers have been attacked by a management that is determined, not just to have ‘some effect’ on their lives, but to destroy them, the judge was very nervous about putting another explosive charge under the dispute.
The immediate way forward is now crystal clear. The picket is legal, the daily demonstrations are legal, the dispute is legal – the Gate Gourmet workers have not taken any action that even under bourgeois law can be categorised as illegal.
Therefore, the TGWU leadership must seek to reflect the courage and determination of the strikers, even in a small way, and immediately make the dispute official, and start paying strike pay at once.
Gate Gourmet are to appeal today, and it is conceivable that new judges more in tune with the ‘bandit employers’ favoured by the Blair government, may make a different ruling.
It must be remembered that in the period that we are living in there are many long-established rights under attack in Britain by the employers and their government.
The right to trial by a jury of one’s peers is one such right, and another is the right to be innocent until proven guilty.
Today we live in a democracy that believes that the bosses must be free to use every dirty trick on the working class, while the trade unions must be chained, so that the bosses can continue to put the boot in.
For example, today there is the appeal against Justice Fulford’s ruling, while, to rub salt into the wound, Gate Gourmet are saying that tonight is their deadline, and that if BA do not modify their contract to give them more financial leeway, they are going to go into administration on Tuesday morning, under which the plant will be closed.
The trade unions must respond to these threats and give the necessary leadership to defeat them.
The TGWU leadership must call all BA workers and all TGWU members at Heathrow Airport out in sympathy with the Gate Gourmet workers to win the dispute.
They say that such an action would be illegal, and that the ‘bandit companies’ in Britain have got ‘bandit laws’ as well, given to them by both Tory and Labour governments.
This is all the more reason for fighting them, since in no other advanced country is the trade union movement in such chains, where bosses can provoke strikes specifically to sack workers so that their lives can be smashed, and trade unions can be prevented from coming to their aid.
These are the kinds of laws that had to be broken in the first place so that trade unions could be established.
These are the kinds of laws that will have to be broken if trade unionism is to survive in Britain, along with basic rights and decent jobs and wages.
If the TGWU leadership are not willing to lead the struggle and put fear of anti-union laws before the defence of workers’ jobs and their rights, they must be forced to resign.
Meanwhile, the Gate Gourmet shop stewards committee and the Heathrow shop stewards should take the lead and call the whole of Heathrow airport out to win the Gate Gourmet dispute and sound the death knell for the anti-union laws.