Victory To The Gate Gourmet Workers

French youth with placards made by English language students marching through Paris on Thursday March 16
French youth with placards made by English language students marching through Paris on Thursday March 16

THE News Line sends greetings to the striking German and the locked-out British Gate Gourmet workers, who are today marching through Hounslow.

The German workers are on strike against the attacks of the Gate Gourmet employer, whilst the British workers have been locked out since August 10th 2005, when Gate Gourmet excluded 760 workers from the plant in order to unilaterally change the terms and conditions of service, and bring in their slave labour ‘survival plan’.

We are sure that the international working class unity that these workers are displaying is the way forward against global capitalism, and that it will hasten their victory. In fact, international strike action throughout Gate Gourmet’s numerous plants would very quickly bring the company to its knees.

The Heathrow lock-out has already proven a number of things.

One of them is that the trade unions have to defy and smash the Tory and Labour anti-union laws, including those that outlaw solidarity action. These laws give the trade union leaders a rock to hide behind, or under, as they seek to avoid taking any action to defend workers who are under attack.

Another is that the working class desperately needs a new and fighting leadership in the trade unions if it is to successfully defend its wages, jobs, pensions and basic rights.

This was proven in the aftermath of the August 10th lockout.

On August 11th and 12th the Heathrow baggage handlers walked out, bringing BA and Gate Gourmet to their knees. Another few days would have won the struggle. However, the TGWU leadership pulled out all the stops, not just condemning the ‘illegal action’, but stopping it, and demanding that the workers return to work, where a number of their shop stewards were then victimised, and two sacked.

These same leaders then reached a deal with Gate Gourmet, signing a Compromise Agreement, giving the company everything that it wanted. That is 144 compulsory sackings, and hundreds of voluntary redundancies; plus that no sacked worker would seek to work for the company or any of its associate companies ever again; plus that all workers would accept the company’s ‘survival plan’; and that before a single worker would receive ‘compensation’ for being sacked, every worker would have to sign the Compromise Agreement, which also involved giving up the right to go to an industrial tribunal or take legal action against the company.

The TGWU leaders, Woodley and Gold, signed a sweetheart deal with Gate Gourmet and stabbed trade unionism and their members in the back.

From then on, they saw their mission as forcing workers to sign the agreement and give up going to a tribunal. This has now reached the stage where they are trying to starve workers into signing, and giving up their tribunal cases, by stopping their hardship pay, which they did on January 6.

In a letter to two locked-out workers who came to see him demanding their hardship money, Region One Finance Officer Harry Timpson wrote: ‘I informed you that as you were taking your case through an industrial tribunal, that no payments after the 6th January would be forthcoming in your case.’ (See page 2). He told the women verbally that this was Tony Woodley’s decision.

The locked-out workers are now being financially punished by their trade union leader, for defying Gate Gourmet and going to an Industrial Tribunal! Woodley is now Gate Gourmet’s enforcer!

Woodley is launching a movement on May 1 to revise the anti-union laws, using Gate Gourmet as an example. You can’t get greater hypocrisy than this. He did not fight the anti-union laws on August 10th and 11th and he will not fight them now – he is too busy fighting his own members, who are battling for their trade union rights, while he is acting for Gate Gourmet!

Every trade union member must demand that Woodley be sacked, that the Gate Gourmet dispute be made official, that official dispute pay be paid, and that a great national demonstration be called by the TGWU and the TUC to prepare the defeat of Gate Gourmet. The Irish TUC acted over the issue of Irish Ferries, and the TGWU and TUC must do it now over Gate Gourmet.