One year since the Gate Gourmet lockout

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ON August 10, 2005 Gate Gourmet, owned by Texas Pacific, locked out in a pre-planned operation over 800 workers, an assault that was calculated to allow them to bring in a scab labour force that would be prepared to work along the lines of their company ‘survival plan’ designed to drive up productivity and drive down wages.

The reaction of the TGWU leadership was purely verbal. It, in fact, refused to make the dispute official and it was a number of weeks before the union began to pay out some hardship pay.

The workers at BA however immediately responded to the struggle by walking out in support of the locked out workers. In a day BA lost £50 million off its share price. Another 24 hours of action would have brought BA to its knees and the message would have gone out to Gate Gourmet to end the lock out.

The saviour of the day for the bosses was the TGWU leader Woodley. He intervened to instruct the BA workers that they must return to work immediately.

The position of the TGWU leadership was that they were prepared to negotiate on the survival plan, but before they could do that, every worker must be reinstated.

It did not take long before the talk of every worker returning to work was ditched.

Within weeks the union leaders were meeting the company and discussing and agreeing a programme of 140 compulsory redundancies, as well as hundreds of voluntary redundancies.

However, the militancy of the workforce was growing by the day.

In September hundreds of Gate Gourmet workers lobbied the TUC Congress, where the TGWU leadership moved to the left for the day.

Woodley moved an emergency resolution calling for all unions to take all action, short of illegal action, to win the dispute.

Two weeks after the TUC Congress, Woodley sold the workers with the help of the TUC’s Brendan Barber.

They agreed with Gate Gourmet on a Compromise Agreement which gave the company everything that it wanted. It was designed to prevent any tribunal or legal cases against the company, accepted at least 140 compulsory sackings, and agreed to no compensation unless every worker signed the deal giving up all of their legal rights.

The TGWU, having earlier accepted the company’s survival plan, the company thought it was now sitting pretty.

However, hundreds of the locked out workers refused to accept this betrayal. To make sure that there were tribunal cases they got their own forms and sent them off themselves.

The TGWU leaders meanwhile waged war on behalf of Gate Gourmet to get as many locked out workers as possible to give up their tribunal cases and sign the compromise deal.

In this, the hardship fund was used as a weapon, with those who were going to tribunals cut off from hardship pay from January 2006.

However over 100 locked out workers are going to employment tribunals and are fighting to win the struggle, that is to get their jobs back on their old terms and conditions.

They are having their first anniversary march on August 20th through Southall, and will be demanding that their dispute be made official, that hardship pay is resumed and that the union leaders pledge action to get their jobs back when they win their cases.

The TGWU under Woodley is still pursuing its on-your-knees approach.

It is now appealing to Blair to allow secondary action by amending the anti-union laws ‘to prevent more Gate Gourmets’.

Blair, Bush’s poodle and the bosses’ servant is just not going to do this.

It is the pathetic reformism of Woodley that makes more Gate Gourmets inevitable.

The way to stop more Gate Gourmets is to use the strength of the trade unions in this dispute.

This is why all TGWU members and all trade unionists must march through Southall on August 20th with the locked out Gate Gourmet workers.