‘NO to redundancies!’ ‘We want our jobs!’ ‘We want justice!’ shouted over 300 locked out Gate Gourmet workers yesterday inside the TUC Congress in Brighton.
The Gate Gourmet workers chanted as they received a second standing ovation, called for by Transport and General Workers Union General Secretary Tony Woodley, as he moved Emergency Motion One: Gate Gourmet.
Woodley said: ‘Let’s hear it for real workers.
‘This is a most important resolution.’
He replied to the Gate Gourmet workers’ chants, saying: ‘We’re with you, we’re doing our best to get you justice.’
He however did not explain why he and the TUC’s Brendan Barber have been pushing through a redundancy programme and insisting that those whom the company might let back to work would be working on different terms and conditions.
He continued: ‘Sacked by megaphone, it’s disgraceful.
‘This is truly the unacceptable face of globalisation.’
Woodley added: ‘The anti-union laws are a charter for cowboy capitalists, a charter for bullying. They should go now. Right now, not tomorrow.’
He underlined the desperation of his own situation – he was moving an emergency resolution that ruled out ‘illegal’ sympathy action with the Gate Gourmet workers – by conceding: ‘If solidarity is a crime, then send us all to jail your lordships, because that’s what we might have to do to defend our rights.’
Woodley pleaded: ‘We are endeavouring to resolve the Gate Gourmet dispute, but these laws must go – we’ve got to stop this happening again.’
Seconding the motion, GMB Acting General Secretary Paul Kenny said: ‘Workers like Gate Gourmet workers are victims of the failure of the last seven years by this Labour government.’
He concluded: ‘Our pledge card is our union membership card that says we will support trade union members who are under attack.
‘We pledge our solidarity.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said the TUC ‘pledge our full support’. He also refrained from mentioning the redundancy programme that he is sponsoring at Gate Gourmet along with Woodley and the employer.
He added: ‘We call on the government to sit down with us and end these anti-union laws, so this never happens again.’
Tony Woodley waived his right of reply and delegates passed the motion unanimously, committing ‘the General Council and affiliates to support members at Gate Gourmet by all legal means and to unite trade unionists in a campaign for just and ILO-compliant employment law’.
Earlier, speaking in the debate on Composite Motion One: Fairness At Work, RMT rail union general secretary, Bob Crow, called for the repeal of all anti-union laws and demanded the right to take solidarity action.
Referring to the walk-out by fellow Heathrow workers in support of the Gate Gourmet workers, Crow told conference: ‘What’s the difference if it’s official or unofficial action? The issue is, was it effective? It was. They should be congratulated on that.’
He stressed: ‘This movement was built on solidarity action.’
Crow called for a national demonstration as part of a campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill, as called for in Composite One.
Congress voted unanimously for Composite One and also unanimously for Composite Two: Employment Status, which called for a campaign for comprehensive employment rights for all, an end to the 48-hour ‘opt out’ and opposition to the EU Services Directive.
At a packed lunchtime All Trades Unions Alliance meeting, of over 60 people, including a number of TUC delegates, youth and Gate Gourmet workers, ATUA National Secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘Congratulations to the Gate Gourmet workers for your magnificent lobby of the TUC today.
‘You put fear into the TUC leaders,’ he continued.
‘They only wanted to let a handful of you in, but they had to let you all in.
‘CWU leader Billy Hayes has pledged “total support’’. RMT leader Bob Crow said other sections have to take action.
‘The Gate Gourmet workers’ intransigence not to accept redundancy, but to insist on reinstatement, is causing crisis for the union leadership.’
Wiltshire continued: ‘Today, capitalism means gangmasters, moving jobs abroad or cutting wages as we’ve seen at Gate Gourmet.’
He said the closure of the Vauxhall Motors factory at Luton had been carried out ‘with the connivance’ of TGWU leader Woodley. ‘But Woodley won’t get away with it this time.’
Wiltshire added: ‘Congratulations to TUC delegates for unanimously passing this motion of full support for the Gate Gourmet members.
‘Those who pledged solidarity must act. Other sections have got to come out to win the dispute.’
Gate Gourmet worker Parmjit Bains said: ‘My message from all Gate Gourmet workers is: we want reinstatement.
‘The company sacked us by megaphone five weeks ago.
‘In the beginning the T&G said: you will definitely all go back inside.
‘The way to change the laws is to win this strike and there must be action to do that.’
Rob Bolton, Hemel CWU rep, said: ‘We need to fully support the Gate Gourmet workers – not with tea and sympathy, but with a general strike.’
Malkiat Bilku, Hillingdon Hospital UNISON shop steward, told the Gate Gourmet workers: ‘You need to win your struggle and to do so you will need to bring the airport out. You are fighting for the whole working class.
‘I appeal to all TUC delegates: you must call action to win their victory.’