‘We Can’t Allow Another Gate Gourmet To Happen’

Gate Gourmet workers protest at Heathrow on August 11th 2005, the day after they were locked out by the Texas Pacific owned company
Gate Gourmet workers protest at Heathrow on August 11th 2005, the day after they were locked out by the Texas Pacific owned company

Delegates to the TUC Congress in Brighton on Monday afternoon demanded a campaign to restore the right to take solidarity strike action.

This followed prime minister Brown’s insistence on ‘pay discipline’ in his morning address to Congress.

Delegates unanimously voted for Composite 3 Employment and trade union rights which called on the TUC General Council to campaign for an end to Minimum Wage exemptions . . . an end to current balloting arrangements for union political funds’ and ‘full employment rights for all workers from day one of employment’.

It also calls for a campaign for full compensation for ‘workers who lost their pensions before the Pension Protection Fund was established’ and for ‘protection against outsourcing’ of jobs.

The motion called on the TUC leaders to campaign for ‘the Trade Union Freedom Bill’ to allow workers ‘to participate in sympathy strikes, providing the initial strike they are supporting is lawful’.

Finally, it called for a campaign to ‘end the opt-out from the European Charter of Fundamental Rights’ and also to ‘increase the state pension above the official poverty level’.

Moving the motion, Andy Bain of TSSA said: ‘Existing legislation is a resource burden on the trade unions.

‘Why should we accept a lower Minimum Wage for under 16s and under 18s?

‘Balloting is a deliberate tax on trade unions.

‘Rights from day one would help workers.

‘Employers do not care about pension funds.

‘Employees should not lose out and if funds go bust, they should be compensated.

‘We support the fundamental right to strike in solidarity.

‘The Labour leadership believes private is good and public is bad.

‘Social democracy and even socialism is dear to the trade unions.

‘We want protection for the right to strike.’

Seconder Len McCluskey of Unite-TGWU section told delegates: ‘Despite improvements in workers’ rights there’s still more to do.

‘The right to collective action is where our real strength lies.

‘Solidarity is a human right. That’s why we support John McDonnell’s Trade Union Freedom Bill to roll back the Tory anti-union years, and even the Labour years.

‘We see the same attitude to opt out of the European Charter of Rights.

‘Let’s take the fight forward.

Speaking in support Tony Kearns CWU, called for an increase in the state pension.

He attacked the government for ‘using our money to pay for campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan’.

He concluded: ‘We need to demand a living wage state pension now.’

Delegates also voted overwhelmingly for Composite 4 Trade union rights and freedoms.

This states ‘that the lack of progress made to date on the repealing of the anti-trade union laws introduced by the Tory government is unacceptable. Action must be taken without further delay to restore the rights of the worker in the workplace.

‘Congress therefore agrees to step up the campaign for the repeal of all anti-union laws and urges the General Council to organise a lobby of parliament in support of the Trade Union Rights and Freedom Bill, tabled by John McDonnell MP.’

It notes that the Bill has a second reading on 19 October.

The motion concluded that ‘whilst it wishes to work constructively with the government, it should be made clear that TUC policies that are contrary to the government’s policies will be fully acted upon.’

Moving Composite 4 RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: ‘We had a strike on Metronet last week that stopped the Tube.

‘We knew we’d won when every Tory paper attacked us.

‘Mayor Livingstone said there was no reason to go on strike.

‘Ten-and-a-half years after promising to end the Tory anti-union laws, Brown never gave one assurance that trade union rights will be restored.

‘We’ve got the boss of the CBI here tomorrow, the CBI are people we should be fighting.

‘Surely the trade unions were built on solidarity.

‘Companies set up two operations so one set of workers can’t come out in solidarity with other workers.’

He added: ‘We should say to Labour either you are prepared to fight for the rights of workers or we don’t give you a penny.’

POA general secretary Brian Catton, seconding the motion, said: ‘We had to fight for our rights.

‘The prime minister said no injustice can last forever.

‘The Tories robbed us of our rights and Labour never gave us them back.

‘We’ve had enough of waiting for promises.

‘If we have to, and we are threatened, we will take up our rights.

‘When workers feel as bad as we feel, they’re going to go out.’

Speaking in support of the motion, NUM national secretary Steve Kemp told delegates: ‘The Tory anti-union laws were worse than the Combination Acts.

‘We still don’t have the right to strike.

‘It’s only two years ago that the Gate Gourmet workers were here and Heathrow workers weren’t allowed to keep on strike in their support because of the anti-union laws.

‘We pledged in 2005 and in 2006 we weren’t going to let any more workers be treated so despicably.

‘Gordon Brown says he admires Thatcher’s conviction.

‘The only tribute Thatcher needs is on her gravestone “under this sod lies another”.

‘She destroyed whole mining areas.’

Dave Wilshire CWU said in support of the motion: ‘We’ve been faced with employers using agency workers illegally to break strikes.

‘On official strikes, we’ve been faced with bosses using a scabs charter to move work to other locations.

‘We can’t picket those sites even though our work is there.

Unless we repeal these laws, unions will be fighting with one hand tied behind their back.’

Alan Gibson, NUJ, added: ‘We have to redress the trade union balance in this country.

‘We can’t allow another Gate Gourmet to happen.

‘Maybe we should be like one POA member who said the government can stick their anti-trade union laws up their collective jumper.

‘If we had that attitude, we would stand more chance of winning back our rights.’