‘THEY are trying to break our unity. We reject this deal.’ This is what pickets near to the Gate Gourmet plant told News Line yesterday morning.
That the company has hit upon a formula for attempting to cut wages and conditions, while at the same time keeping some 200 active trade unionists out of the plant is obvious.
However, the truth is, they can only advance this attempt at unity busting because it has the support of the TGWU leaders. They are acting more like representatives of the Gate Gourmet personnel office than leaders of a trade union whose members are under a fierce attack from what the TGWU leader called a ‘bandit capitalist’ company just a few days ago.
At a mass meeting in Southall last Monday, TGWU leader Tony Woodley told strikers and their families that he could not promise a ‘total victory’ and said that the union was seeking instead – what he called, an ‘honest compromise’.
The nature of this compromise was spelt out by Transport and General Workers Union District Officer, Oliver Richardson. He revealed the absolutely minimal demands of the TGWU leadership when he told the pickets: ‘Yesterday at the TUC an agreement was made. The company has acknowledged that you exist and they have an obligation to you.’
When the company took the union to court over picketing and demonstrations outside the factory they made it clear that they were well aware that the pickets existed and that a real battle was taking place.
What the TGWU leaders have ‘achieved’ is that the company has now offered to hand over a pittance of compensation for workers being victimised, two weeks pay for every year that a worker has worked, provided that they go away.
This is not an ‘honest compromise or even a ‘rotten compromise’. It is in fact a rotten sellout!
The leadership of the TGWU then made it clear, through the official, that there was not going to be a meeting or a ballot over whether to accept the company’s ‘offer’.
He said: ‘They are going to write to everyone, inside and out. Those inside will be offered severance, those outside will be offered compensation. It will amount to two times weekly earnings, times years of service. They are writing letters to everyone and you can sign if you want to. We will then look at who wants reinstatement.’
With the ‘sign if you want to’ line the Gate Gourmet-Woodley partnership are planning a fait accompli. They want to break the back of the mass picket quickly, and so split the locked out workers entirely.
Further, the official added: ‘We know the company wants to pick and choose who comes back. Our position is still that everyone who wants to go back must go back, but if you don’t want to go back you should sign the compensation deal.’
The message to the trade union ‘troublemakers’ is go quietly, take the pittance and allow those who want to return to work on cut wages and poorer conditions to do so.
The official concluded: ‘This is an important breakthrough. The next step will be looking at people who want to go back to work.’ There is no doubt, that some trade union officials will be telling the shop stewards to take the pittance to allow others to take their chances of returning to work.
The pickets are right to condemn this disgraceful sell-out. However, there is still a way to win a total victory. The Gate Gourmet workers and their shop stewards must call the whole of Heathrow airport out in support, until every locked out worker is reinstated on the current terms and conditions.
There is not a moment to lose.