OVER 600 youth and trade unionists joined the locked-out Gate Gourmet workers in a demonstration through Southall on Sunday, marking the first anniversary of their tenacious and determined fight for reinstatement.
Members of the RMT rail union, the CWU postal workers’ union, NUT teachers’ union, GMB general workers’ union, Amicus, and many others, joined the workers on the march.
Youth in the Young Socialists also took part.
Banners on the march included: Justice for Sacked Gate Gourmet Workers, Harrow and District CWU, Hillingdon Hospital UNISON strike banner, All Trades Union Alliance, Ealing and Southall Respect, and a banner all the way from Switzerland, which read: ‘Support the class struggle against TPG/Gate Gourmet – greetings from Zurich, Basel’.
Led by two young Dhol drummers, the marchers kept up chants all along the route of: ‘Gate Gourmet – down, down!’, ‘We want – jobs back!’, ‘Slavery – no way!’, ‘Compromise Deal – no way!’, ‘Tony Woodley – traitor!’ and ‘Victory for – Gate Gourmet workers!’
Placards and banners of the Gate Gourmet workers demanded: ‘Our jobs back on our old terms and conditions’ – ‘Sack Tony Woodley’ – ‘Defeat Gate Gourmet!’
The march began outside the Gurdwara Miri Piri Sahib sikh temple, where its general secretary, Mahender Singh Rathour, told News Line: ‘Since this problem was created the workers have been invited into the temple.
‘We also collected money for them and whenever they had a demonstration on the gate at Heathrow, we always supplied the food, plus the moral support.
‘We have been supporting them from the beginning and will support them until they win.’
Young Socialists member Majid said: ‘I just think the Gate Gourmet workers have been abused. I think this is the true face of imperialism, so I think if you are lower class you have to struggle.
‘All the workers need to get together, because after all it’s the same fight – today it’s Gate Gourmet and god knows who it’s going to be next.’
Kerba Vincent, another member of the Young Socialists, said: ‘It’s a tremendous thing that these workers have been struggling for a year for their rights.
‘The YS have been coming down to Southall to raise support for the march and we will fight to the end for their victory.’
Denise Surman, who came from Banbury in Oxford to join the march, said: ‘I don’t like this government. I’ve had enough of Blair and all his rubbish.
‘The working class have got some rights – we need a different kind of government.’
Retired NUT member Margot Escombe said: ‘I think the Gate Gourmet workers have had a really bad deal.
‘They haven’t been supported by anybody, especially from the TUC, from what I hear. They have been let down.’
Before the march started, locked-out worker Parmjit Bains said: ‘We want to tell the people that our dispute is not finished yet.
‘We are still fighting and we are still on strike, because our union leaders are telling the media, everywhere, that our dispute is settled now, that they have made an agreement. They’re lying.
‘They made a written agreement, but to that agreement we are not agreed!
‘The union leaders have made a deal for us that is not acceptable. Why should we give our rights to the company?
‘We want to tell our community: we didn’t go away, we are still fighting for our rights, for our dignity and for our respect.
‘We are leading the way for the whole working class.’
She added: ‘Our union leaders had a party on Thursday. They didn’t invite us. That means they are hiding something.
‘We are not hiding anything. We are inviting everybody to join us and fight with us.’
A delegation from Switzerland said: ‘We supported the Gate Gourmet strike in Dusseldorf and so we had knowledge about this dispute, that the struggle goes on here.
‘The Heathrow strike has been a headline in all newspapers in Switzerland – but of course they didn’t tell us that the strike goes on.’
At a rally in Southall Community Centre, chairman Dave Wiltshire said: ‘The locked-out workers have been an inspiration to the trade union movement in the way they have refused to accept the right of employers to sack them at will and replace them with scab labour, and the way they’ve refused to accept a sell-out deal.’
Parmjit Bains thanked everyone for attending the march and rally.
She said: ‘We can’t win without you supporting our fight.
‘They have stopped our hardship money since January.
‘MPs, community leaders, union leaders don’t do anything for us.
‘We are fighting for our rights, respect and dignity and showing our power to all workers and unions.
‘Thanks to all of you who have given us support and all unions who have supported us.’
Richard Cassier, from Harrow and District CWU, told the rally: ‘I do my best to represent postmen and women who deliver the mail in Southall.
‘It is a very important day today – one year is a long time to be out of a job, especially so unfairly.’
Locked-out worker Kulwant Sehmi said he had been invited to the reception in Southall last week with TGWU leader Woodley ‘by mistake’.
‘He thanked all the union officials, Brendan Gold especially, and our local MP Piarra Khabra was there as well,’ Sehmi said.
According to Sehmi, Woodley had disparaged the locked-out workers still fighting for reinstatement, describing them as foolish and declaring that the dispute was over, and he didn’t know why there were still people who didn’t realise this.
Sehmi added: ‘Our MP, and other people, I don’t know their names, were enjoying themselves. I walked out.
‘For those in the T&G, the future if you ask me is not right.
‘Be determined and fight for your rights and you will win.’
Christian, from the Gate Gourmet-Dusseldorf Solidarity Group, said: ‘From October last year till the beginning of April this year, exactly half a year, we went on strike against Gate Gourmet and its owner, the Texas Pacific Group.
‘Since Gate Gourmet was taken over by the private equity fund Texas Pacific Group, our working conditions worsened dramatically.’
Nash Campbell, from the Young Socialists National Committee, said: ‘All the members of the YS would like to say to all the workers from Gate Gourmet, we will be with them until they get their jobs.
‘Until they beat the Gate Gourmet bosses, their fight is our fight. They are fighting for our future.
‘Forward to the general strike. Forward to a socialist future.’
CWU Area Processing Rep. Geoff Loftus said: ‘It’s an absolute disgrace in the 21st century that bosses are locking out workers – and the TGWU leaders condoning it is an absolute disgrace.
‘You must get your jobs back on the old terms and conditions.’
Salvinder Dhillon, from the Gate Gourmet Workers Support Group, said: ‘There have been two celebrations this week – ours and Tony Woodley’s.
‘Those in the Roxy restaurant betrayed the Gate Gourmet workers.
‘The representatives of the TGWU, what was their role – keeping the workers in the dark.’
Steve Tuckwell, Harrow and District CWU member, said: ‘This speech is straight from the heart: your fight is our fight.
‘We’re fighters, you’re fighters. You will win this dispute.’
Consultant Anna Athow, a member of the BMA, said: ‘The Gate Gourmet workers are showing that the bosses won’t get away with it.
‘The Blair government is doing the same thing as Gate Gourmet bosses in the NHS – what they want is cheap labour.
‘They’ve spent billions on privatisation reforms, now they’re talking about closing ten hospitals, allocating huge contracts to private companies.
‘The care just won’t be there.’
She added: ‘The key question is what are the trade unions doing?
‘They do a lot of talking, but we need action to defend the NHS.
‘We need to get rid of this government and replace it with a workers’ government.’
Locked-out worker Lakhinder Saran said: ‘I heard Tony Woodley said we are stupid.
‘We were stupid when we listened to him, but we’re not stupid now!
‘We will win our dispute with your support.’
Warish Singh, an RMT member at Earl’s Court, said: ‘Tony Woodley is not a member of the trade union really, he is a traitor.
‘Tony Woodley was asked a lot of questions on May Day about the Gate Gourmet dispute – he would not answer them, and he told lies.
‘Tony Woodley must be removed from his job.
‘All workers should put pressure on the TUC to remove him.
‘The mischief he has made with the management, the mischief with the use of the trade union laws, means he must be put out.
‘We should have a picture of Tony Woodley to show people what a traitor looks like!’
He added: ‘All the Labour councillors and the local Labour MP must be forced to put pressure on Tony Blair, that these hundreds of workers should be put back in their jobs as quickly as possible.
‘Victory depends on unity. All the trade unions must be approached for their full support.
‘I will go back to my union and convey what has happened on this demonstration today.’
Sheila Torrance, on behalf of the News Line, said: ‘Well done, Gate Gourmet workers!
‘This struggle could have been won over a year ago,’ she continued.
‘It was only the T&G leadership that called off the BA workers’ strike, that stopped it being won.
‘It was really the T&G leadership that let Gate Gourmet off the hook.
‘Then over 300 went down to the TUC Congress in Brighton and were told: “You’ll get your jobs back.’’
‘What happened? Nothing!
‘Then the TUC and T&G leaders agreed a deal with Gate Gourmet bosses – the Compromise Agreement – and put pressure on Gate Gourmet workers to sign it.
‘The T&G shop stewards who put pressure on you to sign the Compromise Agreement, we’ve only just found out, some did not even sign it themselves!
‘They wanted the dispute settled and for the union to look good, but refused to fight for you.
‘What has happened now is that the union’s solicitors have been forced to go ahead with the employment tribunals – and there’s now a very good chance of you winning it.’
Torrance added: ‘That was the very best thing you did – you refused to sign that Compromise Agreement. Now it’s dead, and it’s never coming back!’
She concluded: ‘I think today’s march was the strongest march. It’s even been recognised by the national media that this hasn’t gone away.
‘Today, cheap labour is the issue. At the airport, cheap labour is the issue.
‘The battle is on in the T&G.
‘We should go back to the TUC a year later, on September 11. We should demand that this dispute is made official and you get your hardship money.
‘When Woodley meets Gate Gourmet workers, he runs away.
‘The battle goes on. The main thing is to go forward.
‘Trade union leaders are changing all the time, and we’re going to change them.
‘The working class is going to win. This government’s going to be beaten. Let’s go forward and do it.’
Chairman Dave Wiltshire read out greetings to the rally from 6/1400/7 TGWU branch in Manchester and from Oxford CWU.
He said both branches were in the middle of disputes.
But that was not the end of the day – the rally was followed by a great meal organised by the locked-out workers for everyone who came to join their march.
And in the evening there was some fantastic entertainment provided by three spectacular sound systems – Enigma, Masters of Entertainment and Dynamix.
After the Glamorni Dancers came on to give a special performance, the audience got up and joined in the dancing.
After that, there was music from Mrs Shaheen Chadha (Sitar) and Mr Virk (Tabla).
The two young Dhol drummers who led the march were loudly applauded.