A PACKED-OUT Employment Tribunal held yesterday at Reading heard the cases for Gate Gourmet sacked workers fighting unfair dismissal cases against their employer, who sacked 800 workers by megaphone on August 10-11 2005.
It opened with the statement by Gate Gourmet London Ltd solicitors, which claimed that the decision reached by the tribunal, that those in the canteen on August 10, 2005, those in the car park the same afternoon and those who were not at work on August 11 had taken unofficial action.
The argument of the employers’ solicitors was that this should apply in rule to all those workers involved on those days, without exception, and therefore the company had the right to dismiss them.
The employers’ solicitors asked for costs to be imposed if cases went ahead that were spurious.
The judge at the tribunal stated that cases would either proceed or would be dismissed and the question of costs would not be involved.
In reply, the solicitors for the TGWU said that the decision of the tribunal was just specific concerning the action by the workers and unofficial action.
This was not a ruling for all the different groups involved, which was made clear at the last tribunal hearing.
Different groups under consideration were one, the shop stewards group; those in the production department who were in the canteen on the morning of August 10; a third group who were in the canteen but had nothing to do with what was going on.
The argument put forward was that the tribunal should determine the individual cases and that not all the employees were taking part in industrial action.
A solicitor for Mr Howley, one of the sacked workers, next put the case that Mr Howley was a driver who had every right to be in the canteen at that time, and that his case was an exception which the tribunal should consider.
The afternoon session began with Mrs Basra, one of the claimants, who explained that she had been a shop steward and away on holiday.
She was not working on that day but was called into work just to change her shift, when she was instructed by the senior shop steward to go into the canteen as it was her duty.
She stayed in the canteen and she had to wait for her lift home from the chief shop steward, as her husband had been told not to wait for her.
She was challenging her dismissal.
Mr Wiltshire, a trade union representative, spoke on her behalf and for a number of claimants, members of the TGWU, who no longer had legal representation from the solicitors of the TGWU and other solicitors.
He said that many of the claimants had been forced to withdraw their claim for unfair dismissal because of the unjust finding of the preliminary hearing, that anybody in the canteen or even in the car parks and who didn’t turn up for work the next day was guilty of unofficial striking.
He stated that they were only withdrawing under protest.
They had been extremely badly treated by the company, having worked loyally for them for years, and by their trade union, and they didn’t believe they were receiving justice.
Wiltshire spoke for a number of claimants after a last-minute decision by the Transport and General Workers Union solicitors that they would no longer represent their members on the unfair dismissal case.
The case then went on to discuss a number of claimants who in the afternoon of August 10 were in the car park, and a number that were unable to get to work on the morning of August 11.
A number of the claimants who were not legally represented spoke for themselves at the tribunal.
One, Mrs Jhaj, stated she had received her sacking notice, but it had been her rest day.
Another claimed she had been stopped from coming into the car park by the police.
At the end of the proceedings, the judge stated she would look at all the cases to see which ones would go forward in the tribunal and which ones would have to be dismissed.
There are still over 80 cases to be put before the tribunal.