‘We’Ll Fight Until We Win Our Jobs Back’

DOCTOR HAMISH MELDRUM addressing yesterday’s press conference
DOCTOR HAMISH MELDRUM addressing yesterday’s press conference

LOCKED-out Gate Gourmet workers have vowed to ‘fight until we win our jobs back’ and defeat attempts by their union leadership to sell-out their struggle at Heathrow.

Around 150 Gate Gourmet workers, locked out since August 10 last year, were joined by civil servants, postal workers, council workers and other trade unionists, in a monthly mass picket on Beacon Hill roundabout at Heathrow on Sunday, near the Gate Gourmet factory.

Their spirits were high as scores of motorists beeped their horns to show support, and locked-out workers who had been to Germany to meet the striking Gate Gourmet workers at Dusseldorf airport, said support for their struggle was growing across Europe.

Many people were holding banners and placards, despite the bitterly cold weather.

The locked-out workers kept up shouts of: ‘Gate Gourmet – down, down!’, ‘Tony Woodley – out, out!’, ‘Brendan Gold – out, out!’, ‘Compromise Agreement – no way!’, ‘Slavery – no way!’, and ‘We want – jobs back!’.

There was lots of food, including sweets from the Gate Gourmet strikers in Germany, as well as hot tea to keep everybody warm.

Barry Murphy, west London branch organiser for the PCS civil servants’ union, told News Line why he had joined the picket.

He said: ‘I think you have to admire workers like these. They are good trade unionists, sticking up for their rights against a very intransigent power.

‘Considering the T&G has vast sums of money, these people – who are actually standing up for the union’s principles – should be getting hardship pay. These people are struggling to survive.

‘Other trade unionists are here, like myself from the PCS, because we think it’s our duty to support the locked-out Gate Gourmet workers.

‘And Ealing Trades Council and other trade union bodies also support these workers.

‘Our union has also made donations to their struggle. Every trade union should be making donations to this cause.

‘These people are suffering great hardship, just because they want to work.’

Amarjit Mehan, former TGWU branch chair at Gate Gourmet QCW site, said: ‘Gate Gourmet’s actions disgust me.

‘They have treated the workers so unfairly and so unjustly. It makes you think what have we come to?

‘Workers have struggled so hard to get to this stage, where they are now, after suffering intimidation by successive governments. But even the Labour government despises the trade unions now.

‘It is a government which is working for the employers, it is not working for the workers. We had hopes for them.’

He added: ‘I want to see the union representing these workers.

‘We pay their wages, but they are not the true representatives of the workers.

‘It seems to me that the present leadership of the union are protecting the rights of the employers, not the workers.

‘We are totally let down by the union officials.’

Locked out worker Parmjit Sidhu said: ‘They stopped our hardship money and the union doesn’t take our side.

‘Tony Woodley (TGWU general secretary) said before that we came out together and we’ll go inside together.

‘After he said that, he didn’t take our side and the company chose 144 people without reason for compulsory redundancy, after we refused to sign the “Compromise Agreement’’.

‘We want our jobs back and the backdated money.

‘We are still here fighting for our rights. We hope we win our case.’

Victor Mann, a retired member of Amicus, from Harrow, said: ‘I believe the locked out Gate Gourmet workers are fighting for a good cause and a good fight and they need to win.

‘I think it’s very important the working class wins this fight. Losing it would be very bad for the working class as a whole and I think it’s a shame that their hardship money has been stopped.

‘The union should immediately restore the hardship pay and call a strike of the whole T&G to support the locked-out workers.’

Salvinder Dhillon, from the Indian Workers Association, said: ‘My claim has always been that the Labour Party is not representing the working people, it is representing big business.

‘And this is reflected in the fact that, having been in power for so many years, they refused to repeal the anti-union laws passed by the Thatcherite government.’

He added: ‘I feel very disappointed by the union.

‘When baggage workers came out in support and solidarity, they were asked to go back.

‘Had they not been asked to go back and there had been a few more days of that solidarity struggle, that would have forced British Airways and Gate Gourmet to reinstate the workers on the workers’ terms.’

Rob Bolton, CWU delivery office rep, South Central No.1 branch, said: ‘The Gate Gourmet workers have been attacked and it’s the responsibility of the whole trade union movement to defend them and help them win their dispute.

‘Our branch supported them from day one when they were locked out and we will continue to do so.

‘We see it as an attack on one is an attack on all.

‘It’s a scandal the way they’ve been abandoned and betrayed by their union leadership and the TUC should be forced to support them until victory.’

Locked-out worker Mohinder Virk said: ‘I’m just fighting for my job back and for my rights.

‘Everybody is supporting us here. They support us very well.

‘The union leaders stopped my hardship money. They are making it very difficult for us.

‘But they won’t stop me fighting for my rights.’

Another locked-out worker, Satwant Uppal, said: ‘I’m very pleased with the turn-out today.

‘Everybody is supporting us and I really appreciate that they came here, even though it is very cold.

‘We have to stand for this and we will win one day, I hope.’

Narinder Sara said: ‘I need support. They stopped my hardship money. We are all suffering here on the hill.

‘We want all our hardship money back. We want everything we have lost.

‘We are all in the same situation.

‘Tony Woodley and the union leaders are cheating us, while we are suffering with no money.’

Mohinder Grewal said: ‘We are happy so many people have come here today in our support.

‘I have cooked and everyone here is eating our food.

‘We are here fighting for our rights and we are winning more support and we are very happy.’

Jaswinder Kumar said: ‘I’m among the list of 144 for compulsory redundancy.

‘The union leaders have agreed to these compulsory redundancies, but we are not agreed to anything.

‘It’s very nice to see today because we even have support from the other unions here.

‘And it is also good to see the spirit of everybody here. I am very happy to see people still standing out here demanding their rights.

‘We are looking to other unions and to workers across Europe to give us more support.

‘We are going to fight to the end. We are not going to sign the “Compromise Agreement’’.

‘We are not thinking about money, whether they are going to offer us compensation money or not.

‘We are going to fight to the end. We are not going to sign anything, we are going to go to the tribunal for unfair dismissal.’

He added: ‘I don’t know what criteria they used to select 144 of us for compulsory redundancy.’