Shop Stewards Barred By Unite

TGWU members from Belfast protesting outside the union’s offices
TGWU members from Belfast protesting outside the union’s offices

‘I REFUSE to be bribed and blackmailed into silence. My struggle for justice continues’ Gordon McNeill declared last Wednesday.

Discussions between the sacked Belfast airport shop stewards and representatives of the Unite union over a way of resolving the long running dispute that led last month to a hunger strike at Transport House in Belfast, have failed to lead to agreement with Gordon McNeill.

Following the hunger strike the union made an offer of £40,000 compensation to the three sacked stewards for the union’s role in colluding with their employer, ICTS, to have them sacked.

However, this offer has been made conditional on the acceptance by the shop stewards of strings which McNeill described as ‘totally unacceptable’.

These conditions are that the shop stewards agree to a gagging clause preventing them from ever speaking publicly about the dispute and the role played by their union officials.

The union is also insisting that the shop stewards sign a letter stating that the current Unite General Secretary, Tony Woodley, and Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly acted in a ‘reasonable and honourable’ manner throughout the dispute.

McNeill commented: ‘It is a disgrace that the leaders of my union are offering members what, in effect, amounts to a bribe to buy their silence.

‘I made clear during my hunger strike that my right to tell Unite members, and the trade union membership as a whole, about how our union officials sold us out and then left us to fight the battle against ICTS without help from our union, is not for sale.

‘Not satisfied with trying to take away my right to tell people the truth, they also want me to tell people a blatant lie by signing a letter saying that Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly have acted honourably throughout.

‘Jimmy Kelly and Tony Woodley forced me to go through two weeks of debilitating hunger strike to force them to pay our outstanding legal bills.

‘They served me with an injunction to stop me protesting at Transport House and called the police to get me removed. I’m not going to sign a lie and say that the people who did this to me have acted “honourably” and if I did, nobody would believe it anyway.

‘I will now be stepping up my public protest campaign which will continue until the Unite leadership withdraw the gagging clause in the proposed agreement and drop their insistence that I sign a letter exonerating Jimmy Kelly and Tony Woodley.

‘I am also demanding that the union restore my democratic right to protest by withdrawing the injunction they served on me and with it the threat of fines and imprisonment.’

McNeill, called off his hunger strike after doctors threatened court action to have him force fed.

A major campaign is to be launched to expose the role of the Unite leadership in this dispute and to help Unite members change the union.

McNeill on the fourteenth day of his hunger strike was taken to hospital after police intervened and summoned an ambulance to Transport House.

He continued to refuse food and fluids in hospital. However when doctors prepared to go to the High Court to get an order to feed him, Gordon ended his hunger strike rather than be force fed.

The sacked shop stewards are barred by an injunction got by Unite Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, from protesting at Transport House. They are now planning a campaign to defend their democratic right to protest by defying the injunction.

They are also intent on launching a major campaign in Ireland, Britain and internationally to expose what the Unite leadership have done and link with other union activists who are campaigning to transform the unions into the fighting combative organisations they are supposed to be.