THE Gate Gourmet catering company was forced to admit on Saturday that the ‘sweetheart’ deal, which the leaders of the TGWU and the leader of the TUC Brendan Barber had drawn up for it, was dead.
This deal, was tailored to fit all of Gate Gourmet’s requirements. It included the acceptance of the company’s draconian survival plan, and the selling off for a pittance of all of the locked-out workers’ employment rights, and even their right to apply for another job at Heathrow airport.
At its centre was the acceptance by the union leaders that at least 144 workers would be compulsorily sacked. The union leaders even drew up the procedure for deciding who the 144 were going to be, including a notorious points system, and recognised that there were workers who were ‘trouble makers’ that the company had the right to decide they would not have back at any cost.
However, to the horror of Gate Gourmet and Woodley and Barber, the workers refused to accept this rotten sale of their jobs and rights.
First of all, 300-strong they lobbied the TUC Congress and made sure that every delegate knew that they all wanted to be returned to their jobs on their original terms and conditions.
However, this lobby made no difference to Woodley and Barber. As soon as the Congress was over they speeded ahead to sign the deal on the 26th September in Brighton.
This agreement was never put to a ballot of the locked out workers. It was imposed on them, and they showed their opposition to it in a number of ways.
One was to refuse to sign the Compromise Agreement and the other was to send off their own applications to the employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal. This resistance created an ‘embarrassing situation’ for the union leaders.
Practically at the last minute, a day or so before the 90-day period was up for lodging claims, the union solicitors lodged 760 applications.
However, even after the tribunal claims were lodged by the union, its officials were feverishly seeking to get the locked-out workers to sign the ‘Compromise Agreement’ and sign away their rights.
On 17th November, a group of locked-out workers were due to meet Brendan Gold in the afternoon to register their opposition to the deal that he had drawn up and signed.
He postponed the meeting and said that he had to go to the airport on that day. The Gate Gourmet web site tells us what he was doing. It records: ‘Heathrow, Thursday 17th November 2005. Gate Gourmet is to accelerate the implementation of the agreement reached with the TGWU in Brighton, on 26th September, the company announced today.’
Gold couldn’t meet the locked-out workers because he was meeting with Gate Gourmet to discuss desperate measures to try to get the company what it wanted, after the locked-out workers’ rejection of the ‘Compromise Agreement’.
The TGWU executive and membership must put a stop to this treachery. Woodley and Gold must be censured and sacked. The Gate Gourmet dispute must be made official, and official dispute pay must be paid. The distress fund must be used to help those workers that are now in considerable distress. The attempts to stop the daily picket at Heathrow must be halted, and instead, a caravan and heating supplied there for the winter picketing.
The TUC resolution of full support must be activated and there must be a massive national demonstration called to support the locked out workers.
It must be established in practice that the TGWU is not a company union, and serves its members not the bosses. The best way to do that is to win the Gate Gourmet struggle.