800 sacked – Given 3 minutes notice at Gate Gourmet

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Picket line outside the Gate Gourmet factory yesterday morning
Picket line outside the Gate Gourmet factory yesterday morning

‘Eight hundred workers at the gate gourmet airline catering company have been sacked,’ Tony Woodley told a press conference at the TGWU offices in Hillingdon, west London, yesterday.

Five hundred workers were sacked on Wednesday and the remaining three hundred, including those on holiday and sick leave, were sacked, yesterday.

Woodley said: ‘It is an extremely serious situation – hundreds and hundreds of men and women sacked at three minutes’ notice, some over a megaphone.

‘Union-busting is the name of the game.

‘This company is unilaterally trying to reduce our members’ wages, terms and conditions.

‘It is classic American union-busting. British Airways is Gate Gourmet’s major customer and they must use their influence to find a resolution.

‘We want conciliation not confrontation.

‘It is not a question of calling people across the airport to come out, and there are legal constraints on us.

‘If they get a reaction it is only to be expected.

‘This is a major dispute which is inevitably going to escalate here.

‘I’m not legally entitled to say other members will come out even if they were prepared to do it.

‘This is about 800 predominately Asian men and women who have been arbitrarily sacked.

‘Every employee has been sacked, even those on leave.

‘The company have invited people to come back in if they sign new contracts.

‘We know the company has had difficulties and we have been in consultation with them to try to solve them.

‘But we can’t negotiate with eight hundred people sacked.

‘One of the managers said “we can’t work with this community”. Was he talking about the Asian community?

‘It’s disgraceful that he used these words.’

The TGWU said yesterday it is ‘seeking the immediate reinstatement of the sacked workers’.

The locked out Gate Gourmet workers yesterday held a mass picket. By mid-afternoon workers at the Cargo Terminal had walked out and Terminal 1 was closed.

Gate Gourmet workers were forced by police to picket on a roundabout on the main road several hundred yards from the factory, but there is a determined mood.

Locked out worker Joginder Chhina told News Line: ‘They want to cut our wages from £7.71 an hour down to £6.05 an hour.

‘And they want us to service extra flights as well.

‘At the moment we get up to 18 days sick pay. They want to cut that to one day if you’ve worked five years and no days if you’ve worked less.’

Malind Kaul said: ‘There were about 150 agency workers brought in on Wednesday morning.

‘The company has been planning this for seven months.

‘When we heard that they had been brought in, we held a meeting in the canteen.

‘Management came in. They wouldn’t listen, they said “back to work in five minutes or you are sacked”.

‘Then they brought the police in.

‘We stayed in there. We weren’t allowed to use the toilets for seven hours, from ten to five.

‘Then they took our passes and threw us out. They dragged some of the women.

‘When the late shift came in, they took their passes and told them they were sacked.’

Mrs Randhawa added: ‘They wouldn’t even let us out for the toilet for over six hours.

‘Management was prepared, we are innocent. They were ready to sack us.

‘One lady was hurt, they pushed her.

‘We are fighting for our jobs back on our original terms and conditions.’

• Second news story

STOP SUFFOLK CUTS SAYS FBU

UP TO 200 firefighters and their supporters marched from the fire station to the centre of Ipswich yesterday.

The march was headed by fire engines and the firefighters sounded horns to register their protest at job cuts in the service.

The march was in support of Suffolk FBU’s strikes against Suffolk County Council plans to axe a turntable ladder fire appliance and twelve frontline emergency firefighter posts.

There were banners on the march from Kings Lynn, Chelmsford, the South West region and the Northern Ireland region.

Many passing motorists sounded their horns in support of the firefighters and shoppers and office workers turned out to support the march.

At the rally at Ipswich town hall, speakers included Karl Francis, an officers representative, Roger Mackay from Ipswich Trades Council and Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary.

Wrack said: ‘The public say no to fewer firefighters yet the cuts are going ahead anyway. Professionally this plan is flawed.

‘Our members in Suffolk are quite determined. There is immense unity in the union over this issue. Suffolk FBU members are flying the flag for the entire UK fire service.’

Adrian Mayhew, Suffolk FBU Brigade Secretary told News Line:

‘Today’s demonstration is to show the support there is from firefighters and FBU members, not just in Suffolk but around the region and nationally, about the strength of feeling about the loss of twelve firefighter posts.’

He continued: ‘The Council Tax payers in Suffolk deserve the same level of fire cover they had last year, now they’re paying the same level of Council Tax, if not more, this year and getting a lesser level of service, by losing twelve frontline posts.

‘It’s dangerous, it’s a flawed plan and members are going to take action over it.’

Regarding the merging of control rooms, Mayhew said: ‘We have always disagreed with it.

‘We have said it’s an irresponsible plan – it’s not going to save one more life.

‘They have spent £1 billion of public money on it now – £35 million alone to private consultants which is an absolute disgrace, and the way they have treated control staff up and down the country is disgraceful.’