GATE GOURMET CONVENOR ‘SHOCKED’ – when he heard his members were to be dismissed in 5 minutes

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Gate Gourmet sacked workers and supporters at the start of their First Anniversary march on August 20 this year  – one year since they were sacked – currently attending their Employment Tribunal  over wrongful dismissal
Gate Gourmet sacked workers and supporters at the start of their First Anniversary march on August 20 this year – one year since they were sacked – currently attending their Employment Tribunal over wrongful dismissal

FORMER Gate Gourmet general manager Hans Bosch, who has now left the company, gave evidence on the fourth day of the Gate Gourmet employment tribunal hearing in Reading yesterday.

He was asked if on 10th August 2005, when the company bussed in 130 ‘seasonal workers’ while at the same time planning 675 redundancies of existing staff, did he expect anything to happen?

He replied: ‘I was aware there was a risk something might happen.’

The union barrister said: ‘This was also the day the company hoped to finalise negotiations with British Airways over its new contract. Were you aware of this?’

‘No,’ said Bosch.

The barrister continued: ‘We have heard that there were twelve bodyguards on site. Were you aware of this?’

The former manager replied: ‘I was on site from 6.00 am and there were no bodyguards on site.’

‘Were you aware when they arrived?’ he was asked.

Bosch said: ‘I asked who they were when they arrived and they told me.’

The union barrister asked: ‘The arrangements for bringing in the seasonal workers, was it normal?’

‘Yes’, he said.

‘Were you aware they were gathered together off site and brought in on the bus?’

‘No’, said Bosch.

‘Were you aware that in previous years it had been different?’

‘No.’

‘Do you know when the recruitment began?

‘July.’

The questioning continued: ‘A peculiarity of the events of the 10 August was that the vast majority of union officers were not on site.

‘The senior rep Mr Dhillon was not on site.’

Bosch replied: ‘This was a coincidence. I don’t remember who was on site.’

Asked what he thought about the staff who were in the canteen, he replied: ‘It was a clear sign of industrial action.’

The barrister responded: ‘You suggested they ought to be dismissed?’

‘Yes.’

Bosch then agreed that he knew that staff dismissed for industrial action were not entitled to redundancy pay.

The final witness for the company was former human resources manager, Lorraine Mason, who left the company in April this year.

The union barrister asked her: ‘Unlike in previous years a decision was taken to recruit temporary workers who were not related to existing staff, is that correct?’

Mason replied ‘Yes!’

The first witness called by the union barrister was union convener Sukhdev Dhillon, who was cross-examined by the company barrister.

Dhillon said: ‘On the morning of the 10th, I heard they were going to dismiss my members within five minutes. I was so shocked and surprised I returned to the site.’

The company barrister said: ‘You got to the premises and you went to the canteen, why didn’t you say go back to work?’

Dhillon replied ‘Some people said they had been sent up (to the canteen) by the controller, others said they had been dismissed, I said I would go back to management and find out what the situation is.’

The barrister said: ‘According to Miss Mason’s evidence you said “lift the threat and I’ll talk to them”.’

Dhillon replied: ‘I was given only three minutes that’s why I asked them to lift the threat. My members were confused. Had they been dismissed? That’s why I had to see the management, then management said they had not been dismissed only threatened, that’s why I asked them to lift the threat.’

Dhillon said in regard to seasonal workers: ‘In the past regarding the employment of seasonal staff it was always discussed and agreed upon.

‘This time the company started to use the word “permission” saying “we don’t need permission to employ seasonal workers”. That’s when we began to get suspicious.

‘We used to agree the date beforehand this time they just said on August the 9th they were coming in, one day in advance.’

The tribunal continues next week.