1,000 MARCH FOR SACKED GATE GOURMET WORKERS – GMB fully supports demand for reinstatement

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Locked-out Gate Gourmet workers outside the TGWU executive meeting on Tuesday morning
Locked-out Gate Gourmet workers outside the TGWU executive meeting on Tuesday morning

AT the rally in the Dominion community centre in Southall, after the over 1,000 strong march, a 17 strong panel of trade union and other speakers addressed a standing room only audience.

A member of the GMB national executive brought the official greetings of his union.

Danny Faith said he had been a shop steward at Heathrow for 20 years.

Referring to the Gate Gourmet catering operation, he said: ‘The GMB position back in 1997, was we opposed the outsourcing of the BA catering workers.

‘We felt it would be a disaster in terms of your rights and the service to the airline industry and I believe we have been proved absolutely right.’

He condemned the ‘callous sacking of 675 hard-working employees’ at Gate Gourmet and said the GMB ‘fully support your demand for reinstatement’.

He paid tribute to the locked out workers for standing up to ‘an unscrupulous employer’.

He said the dispute ‘demands the support of the entire trade union movement’.

Faith attacked the Labour government for invading Iraq, shedding the blood of some 200,000 people, thousands of miles away ‘in the name of human rights’.

‘Yet,’ he said, ‘just down the road are workers who don’t have the right to strike, to go to the toilet, or even speak to their shop stewards,’ he added.

‘What hypocrisy when you have a government that says it is fighting for human rights in Iraq when we don’t even have human rights a few miles away.’

He paid tribute to George Galloway for attending the rally and wondered where all the Labour MPs were.

‘They’ve tried to take away your union rights, any sense of justice, your dignity – but they can’t take away your right to fight,’ he said to applause.

‘You deserve to fight and you deserve to win and I hope that you do.’

Harbinder Singh, locked out Gate Gourmet worker, said people had even come from abroad to join the rally.

He described the events of August 10 when the company locked the 675 workers out.

He said they hired ‘65-70 bouncers’ and trapped the workers in the cafeteria for ‘eight to ten hours’.

‘They did not even allow people to go to the toilet,’ he said. ‘There were no facilities for drink or food. They humiliated the people.

‘One lady was dragged out. The police just watched,’ he further alleged.

‘How can you have a “compromise’’ with such a company?’ he asked.

He also said that before the dispute the workers had voted by 97 per cent and 93.5 per cent in two ballots to reject cuts in their pay and conditions.

Jack Jackiewicz, Southall FBU, criticised the TGWU leadership for not making the dispute official.

‘I admire the stand you’ve taken against unfair and selective redundancies,’ he said.

He added: ‘As a firefighter for many years I shall never forget the support you showed us on our picket line during our dispute.’

He said he would write to the TGWU leaders ‘asking them to formalise this dispute.

‘You pay their wages and you deserve the union’s assistance when you need it.’

Respect MP George Galloway said it was ‘an honour’ to march with the Gate Gourmet workers and address their rally.

‘We will be with you until victory,’ he pledged.

He condemned the sacking of ‘almost 700 workers, in the eighth year of a so-called Labour government – sacked by megaphone by a Texan billionaire’.

He continued: ‘The Texan billionaire was within his rights and the 700 workers had no rights, even to protection from the police who watched while they were assaulted.’

He said Prime Minister Blair ‘is responsible’ for allowing bosses such rights and the lack of rights for workers.

He said it was a disgrace that after three landslide election victories, Labour MPs had gone virtually silent about these anti-union laws.

He said the Gate Gourmet workers were being treated ‘like 19th century coolie labour’ and insisted: ‘We will not stand for that! We will stand side by side with you.

‘Victory to the Gate Gourmet workers! Down with Gate Gourmet management!’

Locked out Gate Gourmet worker Mrs Gruwal said: ‘Thanks for everyone coming here to support us.

‘We need this support. What Gate Gourmet have done to us is not right, and what we expect them to do, everybody knows.

‘We need everybody to get together – whatever they say, we must tell the workers, don’t do it.

‘The conditions in there are not acceptable. That’s why a lot of people won’t sign those papers.

‘What are the “associated companies’’? No one knows.

‘Indirectly, it means they don’t want us to work at the airport.

‘BA is associated with Gate Gourmet because they’re their main customer.

‘So if we sign the agreements they want to send to us, where will we end up?’

She continued: ‘We don’t agree with these conditions. We are not slaves. We have our self-respect.

‘That day (August 10), the ladies were dragged out. That’s an offence.

‘The law says they can’t touch anybody.

‘They use and abuse the laws the way they want it.

‘We will fight to the end. We are not slaves for them!’

Richard Lugg, from Hounslow UNISON, said: ‘We are proud to be here, just as were with the Hillingdon Hospital strikers during their dispute.’

He condemned the ‘Compromise Agreement’ being put forward by the TGWU leadership as a ‘surrender of your rights’.

He pledged: ‘We will raise serious money to see that you don’t starve over Christmas and that you have the resources to win.’

Paddy O’Regan, editor of the News Line, brought greetings from the News Line and the Workers Revolutionary Party to the locked out workers.

He said: ‘Today’s rally is a magnificent one. It’s a rally of a dispute on its way to victory and it’s the TGWU leaders around Woodley who are frustrated, because they are trying to turn the TGWU into a company union and give Gate Gourmet a sweetheart deal.

He said the TGWU leadership ‘must be called to order’.

He reminded the meeting that the TUC Congress ‘gave 100 per cent support to the Gate Gourmet struggle’, okaying any action to win the dispute that was within the law.

‘So there’s no reason other unions can’t support the Gate Gourmet workers,’ he added.

‘It’s a question of mobilising to defeat Woodley and this TGWU leadership and put an end to the “Compromise Agreement’’,’ he insisted.

He said it was a ‘huge shame and wrong decision’ to order the BA workers back to work.

‘If they’d stayed out, the dispute would have been won in two days.

He added: ‘Gordon Brown’s vision is of a Britain built for “globalisation’’, a slave labour Britain.

‘There has to be a new leadership built in the unions.

‘Woodley must be sacked. The anti-trade union laws have to be taken on and broken.

‘How can it be legal to starve and sack workers? That’s class law.’

He said the only way forwards was for the working class ‘to smash these laws’ and to go forward to a workers’ government.’

Parmjit Bains, another locked out worker, said that if the workers sign the ‘compromise’ deal,then ‘it means we are giving up all our rights’.

‘I say: don’t sign. Why take the “compensation’’ when we can get our jobs back.

‘We all came out, we will all go in,’ she said.

‘Our union leaders are weak. We are not weak!

‘We are fighting for your human rights. Definitely we will win!’

Malkiat Bilku, who led the Hillingdon Hospital strike, said: ‘We fought against the privateers who sacked us because they tried to cut our wages by £40 a week. We won.

‘At first our union leaders refused to support us. But we went to their headquarters and we fought them to make our strike official – and they did.

‘Later they tried to call off our dispute and we told them “no’’. We carried on and took our dispute to victory.’

She added: ‘I’m very sure you will win, and you’ve got nothing to lose.’

Rob Bolton, from South Central Number 1 Branch of the CWU, said: ‘cowardly union leaders must go.

Billy Colvill, SW London CWU area, said: ‘Your struggle is our struggle.

‘A victory for you will be a victory for us all.’

A Message of support to the rally from the TGWU International Branch was read out.

Earlier OVER 1,000 locked out Gate Gourmet workers, with trade unionists from across London and other parts of the country, marched through Southall on Sunday – demanding official recognition of their struggle at Heathrow and reinstatement to their jobs’.

‘Gate Gourmet – shame, shame!’, ‘We want justice!’, ‘TGWU leaders – shame! shame!’, ‘Slavery – no more’, ‘We want – jobs back!’ they shouted, whilst two dhol drummers beat out a loud rhythm at the front of the demonstration.

Eric Paul, one of the locked out workers, told News Line: ‘The union leaders have sold us out. We want to tell these people that this Woodley leaership is rubbish.’

‘He said the workers’ definitely’ want a new kind of leadership in the Transport and General Workers Union,and we want our dispute made official,’ he added.

The workers carried placards saying: ‘TGWU – we want proper dispute pay, proper shelter’, ‘TGWU – make our dispute official’ and ‘End the Compromise Agreement’.

Banners on the march included the Justice for the Sacked Gate Gourmet Workers banner, Ealing Trades Council, News Line-All Trades Union Alliance, Hillingdon Hospital strike banner, Hammersmith UNISON, Hounslow UNISON, and Ealing and Southall Respect.

Carol Foster, a political officer for the Transport for London Number 1 branch of the RMT rail union, said: ‘The reason I’m here is because we in the RMT feel we have to show solidarity with people who we think are in an unfair situation.

‘I think the Gate Gourmet workers have been treated in a disgusting way. It leaves me speechless.

‘There has to be a proper settlement. This “compromise’’ is absolutely unbelievable. It’s nothing.’

Mr Sandhu, a local resident, said: ‘The union should make the dispute official.

‘They should have made it official the moment they were locked out.’

Gagamdeep Singh said: ‘I think the Gate Gourmet workers need to be brought back to their jobs. They have been treated very badly.

‘B.S. Cheema, a local resident said: ‘We support their struggle. We want the GAte Gourmet workers to get their jobs back.’

Mohabir Singh, from Wycombe, said: ‘The workers should have their rights.’

Barry Murphy told News Line: ‘I’m from the PCS (civil service union) west London branch and a delegate to Ealing Trades Council and I think the way the Gate Gourmet workers have been treated is terrible.’

He continued:’The TGWU should have taken a stronger stance, rather than allow their members to be locked out like that.

‘So I’m here today to show the support of my union for the Gate Gourmet workers, to show our solidarity.

‘The TGWU should make their dispute official. U has large sums of money.

‘Every trade unionist should show solidarity and at the Trades Council at Ealing they voted to support the march and come here today.

Raj Pal, a local supporter of the dispute, said: ‘There is a lot of support in the local community and from local trade unionists.

‘We are demanding their jobs back. Around 140 people got the sack.

‘They are calling them “troublemakers’’ and they gave the order to all factories at the airport not to employ these people.

‘It’s unfair. Their future is finished now.

‘The only jobs now are on the airport, so if they can’t work at the airport, where can they go?’ he asked.

‘They can’t pay their mortgages and they can’t get housing benefit.

‘The social security say: you are in dispute, we can’t pay you anything.

‘If you don’t pay the Council Tax, they put out a summons after two or three days.’

He added: ‘The union don’t do anything.

‘The union leaders sell these people.

Satwant Uppal and Parminder Brar, locked out Gate Gourmet workers, said they were both on annual leave when the company told them they were sacked in August.

Jake Lagnado, a voluntary worker at the Latin American Workers Association, and a member of the TGWU, said: ‘I have come here out of solidarity.

‘The TUC Congress resolution to support the Gate Gourmet workers should be implemented.’

Angela Acevedo, a GMB member, said: ‘I think what has been done to the Gate Gourmet workers by the company and by the their own union leaders isn’t right.’

John Fitzgerald and John Hextall, from Hammersmith UNISON, said: ‘It’s been very difficult to find out exactly what’s been going on, but we feel the unions should be supporting the Gate Gourmet workers 110 per cent.’

They added: ‘The whole union movement should turn out to support them.

Simon Deville, from the UNISON voluntary organisations branch, said: ‘They clearly haven’t won the dispute yet, despite what the TGWU leadership have claimed.

‘It’s important to show solidarity until the Gate Gourmet workers have got a settlement that they themselves are happy with.’