Last weekend saw united action by German and British Gate Gourmet workers against the company’s savage attacks on their jobs, wages and conditions.
The weekend began with a picket of Texas Pacific Group’s London offices (It is the owner of Gate Gourmet) in Pall Mall, Friday lunchtime and continued Friday evening with a marvellous evening of entertainment.
The audience listened to the famous classical Santoor player Kiranpal Singh, then the colourful and rhythmic Vasda Punjab Asian dancers.
The entertainment was rounded off with a display of traditional dance by a young troupe from the Day Mer Turkish and Kurdish community organisation.
On Saturday, over 300 German Gate Gourmet strikers from Düsseldorf, London Heathrow Gate Gourmet locked-out workers and their supporters marched through Hounslow where they won big support from shoppers in the crowded Hounslow High Street, where many local youth joined in the march.
The march set off from Isleworth led by the Dhol Blasters Indian drummers. They were followed by the new Victory to Gate Gourmet banner, the TGWU Justice for Gate Gourmet workers banner, banners from Gate Gourmet Düsseldorf, and the Hounslow UNISON, Ealing TUC, Oxford and District TUC, and the News Line-All Trades Unions Alliance banners.
The lively marchers carried placards saying ‘Gate Gourmet – Slave Labour’; ‘Texas Pacific we will beat you in Düsseldorf and London’; ‘Texas Pacific – Slave Labour Bosses’; and ‘No to the Compromise Agreement’.
They shouted slogans ‘Gate Gourmet – shame, shame!’ ‘Tony Woodley – out out!’ ‘What do we want – jobs back!’ ‘When do we want it – now!’
At a rally in Hounslow Civic Centre, Hounslow Councillor Colin Ellar welcomed the Heathrow Gate Gourmet locked-out workers and the Gate Gourmet strikers from Germany.
He said: ‘This dispute is about the right to work at a decent wage with decent conditions. We saw it at Hillingdon and Skychefs and thought we’d left it behind us.
‘We must fight to stop people being unfairly treated.’
London Gate Gourmet locked-out worker Lakhvinder Saran told the rally: ‘It has been a long struggle but we will continue the struggle against Gate Gourmet, and the TGWU leaders and the TUC leader.
‘We thank the Gate Gourmet workers who have come here all the away from Germany. It’s great to be together and together we will win.’
German striker Grusen Younis said: ‘I’ve been working at the Gate Gourmet factory since 1999. Two years ago, they brought in consultants Mackenzie and dramatically changed the work pattern.
‘They made a lot of pressure to make us work more. Last summer we had enough of all this, all the flexible working. We decided to fight.
‘That’s the reason we’ve been on strike since 7th October last year. We are continuing our fight and we will win.’
Christian, leader of the German Gate Gourmet support group added: ‘It’s a difficult struggle because Gate Gourmet are bringing in strike breakers.
‘We want to make links with the struggles in other countries. Gate Gourmet has units all over the world – in America, Latin America, Britain, Asia and Turkey as well as Germany.
‘There is a global working class and we are proposing a global Day of Action on April 8th.’
Richard Lugg, Hounslow UNISON, said the Gate Gourmet workers represented ‘the finest traditions of British trade unionism – unlike the treacherous Tony Woodley, who represents the worst’.
Hillingdon Hospital strike leader, Malkiat Bilku, said: ‘The working class has no race and no country, the working class comes from everywhere. We are all together and we have to win.’
She said once the working class knows how to fight and has a leadership that is prepared to take the struggle forward to victory, then ‘we can’t be beaten’.
‘That’s what we found in the struggle against Pall Mall and then Granada, and also in the struggle against the UNISON trade union leaders, who tried repeatedly to get rid of our strike,’ she said.
Consultant Anna Athow, a member of the British Medical Association (BMA), told the rally: ‘This Blair government is destroying our National Health Service. There are no “deficits’’ or “debts’’, there is just underfunding.
‘Now there are direct cuts – smashing up NHS hospitals – while the money is taken out of the NHS and given to the private sector.
‘We need a different type of leadership in the unions that, instead of sitting there collaborating with the government, takes strike action to bring this government down and defend our public services.’
Locked-out Gate Gourmet worker Harbinder Singh said: ‘Great thanks to all the people who have given us support. This fight is for all the workers.
‘Solidarity, community to community, country to country, shows we can win this fight against the bosses.
‘Since August 10 they have locked us out from the company.
‘After working 19 years for this company and building it up to this level, they call us “troublemakers’’. We are not troublemakers, we are hard workers.
‘We are asking again for everybody to get together and fight together.
‘This fight is for fundamental rights. We will fight until we get justice.’
Postal worker Rob Bolton, Communication Workers Union, South Central No.1 branch, said: ‘The Gate Gourmet workers are in the vanguard of the struggle of the working class in Britain.
‘My branch will continue to support the Gate Gourmet workers until their victory.’
News Line Editor Paddy O’Regan told the rally that the arrival of the German Gate Gourmet strikers in Britain was tremendously appreciated.
‘Internationalism and international action isn’t an idle phrase,’ he said. ‘It’s the requirement of the hour.
‘Bosses have the right to go anywhere in the world to sack workers and create situations like Gate Gourmet, where they can sling people out onto the streets.
‘When Blair was asked on August 11 to condemn Gate Gourmet, he refused.
‘He supports the right of capital to exploit labour and in general to act like locusts.
‘The standard of life of the working class is being shattered.
‘Workers are beginning to see capitalism in crisis and they’re fighting against it.
‘We’re for building international trade union action and the world party to take political action to defeat capitalism and go forward to socialism.
‘Gate Gourmet bosses have sacked hundreds of workers and tried to crush them.
‘Heathrow is one big potential Gate Gourmet,’ O’Regan warned.
O’Regan told the rally that there were three companies who had just acquired contracts at Heathrow ‘who want to do what Gate Gourmet has done’.
He added: ‘The new boss of British Airways has admitted publicly that the move to Terminal Five could be likened to their Wapping.
‘He wants to make workers work ten years longer for reduced pensions. That’s what’s happening to the London airport.
‘That’s why Gate Gourmet is such a decisive struggle.’
He said the working class was drawing the conclusion that, if the TGWU won’t fight for the Gate Gourmet workers, they’re hardly going to fight for us, and that when the bosses and government wave the big stick, the union leaders will give way.
‘If Gate Gourmet workers lose, the whole working class will be next!’
Speaking about the recent revelations over Labour Party finances, O’Regan said ‘This is a bosses’ government.
‘Workers need trade union leaders prepared to fight against the government and bring the government down, to establish a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.
‘We fight to build up the revolutionary party to overthrow the capitalist order.’
O’Regan urged: ‘No concessions to the bosses, no giving away jobs, pensions or agreeing to speed-ups.
‘We say we will give the Gate Gourmet workers every support we can to make sure that they win, and forward to the world socialist revolution.’
A collection was raised of over £1,000 for the locked-out workers in London.
Locked-out worker Lakhvinder Saran ended the rally saying : ‘Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for coming.’