GATE GOURMET SACKINGS ‘PREMEDITATED’ – union pfficial confirms

A group of the locked-out Gate Gourmet workers outside the Employment Tribunal in Reading
A group of the locked-out Gate Gourmet workers outside the Employment Tribunal in Reading

APPEARING at the Gate Gourmet sacked workers employment tribunal yesterday was Brendan Gold, TGWU national secretary for civil aviation transport.

He was also responsible at the time when BA transferred the company to Gate Gourmet.

On August 10 last year he arrived at the site at about two o’clock in the afternoon to try and mediate with the management, but was refused entry onto the site.

He was allowed to remain in the car park with heavy external security present.

He was able to talk to some of the staff, some that were arriving for the shift in the afternoon, people who had arrived and were concerned about their family inside and some workers from other Gate Gourmet sites.

Under questioning, he agreed there had been serious problems at Gate Gourmet linked to decisions to restructure the company.

He assured the people in the car park that the union would protect its members still inside the unit and his presence there was to try and resolve the problem, not exacerbate it.

When he was informed of the situation at the plant, he phoned Andy Cook, a manager, and suggested that they ‘stand back and give us the opportunity to come over to discuss the issue’.

The impression he received was that the company was intent on sacking the workforce.

Next to appear at the tribunal was Oliver Richardson, full-time TGWU official responsible for the whole of the union’s work at Heathrow Airport.

He stated that at a joint consultative committee (JCC) meeting, the management stated that they needed to restructure the company following the loss of the Virgin contract, and that they were paying significantly above market pay.

They compared their situation to a company called Airfare, who used Eastern European labour, paying significantly below the market rate.

Concerning events on August 10, he said he arrived at the plant and as well as Brendan Gold was not allowed admittance.

He stayed in the car park and was present when Snow, the manager, announced in the car park that either people went into the factory or they would be sacked.

He stated that most people couldn’t hear what Snow had said over the loudhailer, including himself, and he therefore asked Lorraine Mason (manager) that this matter be put in writing so everyone could understand what was said.

He thought the measures taken by the management to sack the workforce were premeditated.

The next person to appear before the tribunal was Harbinder Singh, a porter and a shop steward.

He was present on August 10 and he said that when people returned back from their break, agency workers were doing their jobs.

The Gate Gourmet workers asked where they should go and Singh said he then asked Mr Gordon, a manager, what should they do and Mr Gordon told them to go and wait in the downstairs rest room.

People were getting very angry and he told Mr Gordon that he couldn’t handle it and asked him to contact Mr Dhillon, the convenor, to come back from a meeting to handle the situation.

He himself tried to contact Mr Dhillon as well.

On August 11, he tried to go to work again in the morning. He was on the 6.00am to 2.00pm shift and was refused entry as he had been sacked.

The next person to appear before the tribunal was Paul Harley, a team leader.

He explained he went up to the canteen to look for his staff.

As he walked into the canteen, an announcement was being made that everyone was sacked.

He didn’t understand it. He went back down to his work and on his way back about four people including a manager and security asked him to stop, and told him he was sacked because he’d been in the canteen.

Davinder Dhaliwal was next to be questioned at the tribunal. She was due at work on 11 August but was not allowed in by two security guards.

She had received a letter sacking her early that morning.

Next was Kulwinder Desi who was due to go in on the afternoon of 10 August. She tried to swipe her card to enter the plant. It didn’t work and she was told she was sacked.

Mrs Surjit Gill explained that at work on August 10 Mr Johal, the manager, took people into one corner of his section and held a meeting and told them agency staff were here. He then told everyone to go into a meeting in the canteen.

Jaswinder Kumar, a loader for Gate Gourmet, was in the canteen on August 10 on his break. Other workers started to come into the canteen and they were told if they didn’t return back to work they would be dismissed.

He had legitimate business in the canteen and did not realise that he was about to be dismissed as well.

Darshan Jhaj went to work early on 11 August even though she had received a letter that morning stating she was sacked.

She didn’t believe it and wrote a letter to the employer but has never received a reply.

Mohinder Virk was questioned next by the tribunal. She explained that manager Mr Gordon briefed them about agency workers coming into the plant that morning August 10.

He sent his workforce down to the rest room and her to the cutlery room as the rest room was crowded and she had breathing problems. She was then sent by him up to the canteen with all the others and although twice she tried to return to work she was stopped by security.