Gate Gourmet Move To Attack Dublin Workers

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A delegation of the sacked Heathrow Gate Gourmet workers visiting the picket line of the striking Gate Gourmet workers in Dusseldorf, Germany during their strike in February this year
A delegation of the sacked Heathrow Gate Gourmet workers visiting the picket line of the striking Gate Gourmet workers in Dusseldorf, Germany during their strike in February this year

GATE GOURMET, owned by venture capitalists Texas Pacific, is at it again in its class war against workers and trade unions.

In August 2005 it provocatively locked out and sacked by megaphone 800 workers at Gate Gourmet, Heathrow, in order to bring in its ‘survival plan’.

It now faces over 100 cases for unfair dismissal at Employment Tribunals.

To aid in the eviction of the workers concerned it brought 12 bodyguards, plus a number of personnel from a company that advertises the services that it provides in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, plus armed riot police onto the site.

In the same year it provoked strike action at Gate Gourmet, Dusseldorf to worsen workers conditions of service.

Now it is seeking to impose its will on the workforce in Dublin.

Gate Gourmet has confirmed that it is proceeding with the immediate reorganisation of its workforce at its Dublin plant including instructing certain staff members to change their work practices.

To assist in this task the company has been carrying out profiling of individual employees to establish who was most likely to resist changes in their duties.

The SIPTU trade union general president Jack O’Connor has described the documentation as ‘sinister, provocative and reprehensible’.

However, in a letter to SIPTU on Wednesday, general manager of Gate Gourmet’s Dublin operation Brian Murnane said that after over a month of consultation, the company had decided to implement its reorganisation plans.

It says that apart from a few cases, it intends to require employees to vary the manner in which they carry out their work within their current employment contracts, and has informed them of this limited requirement.

Gate Gourmet claims that it will not be changing its workers’ terms and conditions of employment.

Murnane confirmed that Gate Gourmet is proceeding with the immediate reorganisation of its workforce including instructing certain staff members to change their work practices.

We are pleased to be able to publish Siptu’s reaction to this attack, and the company’s top secret ‘highly confidential’ plan for profiling and harrassing the work force and imposing the changes that it wants to make.

On November 28 2006, Pat Ward, the SIPTU Industrial Organiser wrote to Brian Murnane, General Manager, Gate Gourmet Ltd, South Apron, Dublin Airport. Copies were sent to all union notice boards.

‘Re: Dublin Risk Matrix

‘Further to an emergency meeting of the Civil Aviation Branch Committee, we have been instructed to write to you following the sighting of documents that have allegedly emanated from Senior Management in Gate Gourmet.

‘In essence, these documents instruct other agents of Gate Gourmet to participate in a provocative and negative industrial relations practice, which we believe is contrary to the positive well being of our members employed in Gate Gourmet.

‘To exacerbate this episode, we participated in good faith and as recently as last Wednesday 22nd November 2006 in the Labour Relations Commission, wherein your Company agreed to suspend all activity regarding contract negotiations. This assertion is supported by the assigned Industrial Relations Officer of the Labour Relations Commission Conciliation Service.

‘In light of the above, we must call on you, by return, to detail the Company’s response to our very serious concerns.’

SIPTU followed this up by writing, on 29 November 2006 to the IR/HR Executive of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, Tim O’Connell

‘Re: Gate Gourmet Iri. Ltd. – Dublin Risk Matrix

‘We have sighted documents with the subject heading ‘Dublin Risk Matrix’ whose author is Mr. Jim Ball of Gate Gourmet and written/sent on 26th November 2006, some four days after we attended a conciliation conference in the Labour Relations Commission to identify resolutions to our members’ concerns

‘However, we are appalled at this documentation which purposely and provocatively strives to annihilate the chosen representational methodologies of our members employed in Gate Gourmet.

‘We must further contend that your organisation, Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) must have been fully aware, or even more concerning, complicit, in the construction of this despicable document. There can be no doubt, that Gate Gourmet, in concert with yourselves, have embarked upon a distinctly insidious strategy, specifically designed to sabotage the confidence of vulnerable workers.

The document displays a pompous attitude towards the aforementioned employees. Therefore, we need your organisation to meaningfully assure us that you do not support an employer who subverts the processes of mature and responsible industrial relations.’

The ‘Dublin Risk Matrix’ was sent out by Jim Ball to management personnel on 26th November

It reads: ‘Please see the attached Risk Matrix which needs to be filled in by Dublin Heads of Department by close of play on Tuesday and returned to Brian and myself.

‘Chris, could you co-ordinate the inputs to this and then consolidate into a single document. We then need to get it to the Solicitors after you, Brian and I check that we understand it and its potential implications for the ongoing process.

‘Notes…..

‘1) It may be that a difficult issue we have to face over the next few days is that:

• employees, under the instructions of the union, try to carry on as normal after we tell them that implementation of the reorganisation has started.

• then, as we ask them to do something they regard as abnormal or different, they ‘en masse’ ignore or refuse reasonable instructions.

‘2) According to the MOA employees must perform any duty to which they object, but that this would be ‘under protest’ and pending a company investigation. which has to happen within 48 hours of incident.

‘3) If that investigation finds against the employee, he or she should presumably continue to perform the duty but can pursue the grievance, ultimately, to the Labour Court in the meantime the grievance procedure requires that ‘no action of any sort will be brought to bear against the employee’.

‘4) So, if we threaten employees with discipline or dismissal, they will possibly work under protest and raise a grievance. We could very quickly have many such grievances which are supposed to happen within 48 hours.

‘5) This might be the easiest option for the union as it keeps them legal and allows for immediate resistance.

‘6) That says we should from Tuesday onwards…..

• continue to work intensively to win hearts and minds concerning the Company’s case and rationale,

• have the evidence to hand for each employee that says they must give flexibility (the above matrix) so that we can use it for persuasion,

• look first for flexibility from employees who signed and returned the letter, or who are thought to be least likely to object or to raise a grievance,

• continue to try to get more people to sign the letter, and keep confidential the number of employees (and who) that have signed the letter,

• not expect or require everyone to comply with full flexibility immediately,

• ask the solicitors if there is a possible legal conflict between the MOA grievance procedure and disciplinary / dismissal action.

‘27/11/2006

‘Hi Eric/Rachel. I have been asked to get together information for the Contingency team from the UK. Can you please provide me with the relevant info below as a priority as they need this ASAP and it is quite urgent.

‘Eric, I have asked IT in the UK to give Menu access through SACS to the production team, this way they will be able to familiarise themselves with the SPECS. . .

‘Also an important thing we need to do urgently is contact the suppliers and see if they can provide us with products at short notice, i.e. sandwiches, snack boxes etc. Items that we can just order and do not have to prepare anything.

‘You will see below spreadsheet with three different service levels and what we are going to provide each customer in emergency. I can explain this better in person, we have briefly spoken about beforehand.

‘Rachel, Do you have any loading diagrams on file for drivers, galley diagrams etc, that I could send over to the transport team or anything that you could think of that they could read over and familiarise themselves with regards to transport?

‘REMEMBER THIS IS HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL’ (emphasis as in original)

‘Can you work on this ASAP top priority, if you have any questions come and see me. Cheers.’

Gate Gourmet seem to be getting ready for another lock out – this time in Dublin!