‘VICTORY to Gate Gourmet workers! TGWU sack Tony Woodley!’ shouted angry locked-out Gate Gourmet workers as they confronted TGWU leader Woodley before the start of the 12,000 strong TUC May Day march at Clerkenwell Green in London yesterday.
The locked-out workers, in the ninth month of their fight for reinstatement, mass leafleted trade unionists who had come to the the demonstration from as far away as Aberdeen, telling them: ‘Our dispute is not over’.
They were responding to a cynical attempt by TGWU leader Woodley and the leaders of the TUC to gain credibility from the Gate Gourmet workers’ struggle which they sold out to the company.
The locked-out workers informed demonstrators: ‘Our union leaders in the TGWU have refused to take on Gate Gourmet, instead they have agreed to the company’s “survival plan”.’
The locked-out workers confronted Woodley at the start of the demonstration as he was being interviewed by the TV.
Woodley said: ‘We would not be here if it was not for Gate Gourmet.
‘The people behind me still cannot get their jobs back because of the unjust labour laws – Peugeot workers are being sacked and that is why we are calling on our government to change the law.’
He went on to say: How can you sack people like the Gate Gourmet workers by megaphone.’
When Woodley said that the bosses of Gate Gourmet ‘should be here to answer these workers’ the locked-out workers shouted ‘Traitor’.
They demanded to know why Woodley would not make their dispute official.
He continued to the camera: ‘We don’t want to let people down, and it is these laws that make things difficult.’
He added to the ladies: ‘We really want you all back at work.
‘Unfortunately we can’t deliver that because of the unjust laws that we have in this country.’
The locked-out workers called out ‘No to the Compromise Agreement!’
There were big contingents on the demonstration from the TGWU branches and regions all over the country, and likewise from the RMT trade union, the NASUWT teachers, and the Turkish and Kurdish workers’ communities in London.
There were also banners from trades councils, the GMB, the PCS, UCATT, NATFHE, UNISON, AMICUS, BECTU, NUT, and other trade unions, as well as workers from Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq.
There was a 200-strong contingent from the WRP and the Young Socialists as well as a delegation of 35 locked-out Gate Gourmet workers.
There were two Gate Gourmet banners on the march, and three Gate Gourmet drummers leading their contingent.
The WRP/YS contingent chanted ‘Victory to the Gate Gourmet workers! Kick out Blair!’
The front of the march was led by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, Amicus leader Derek Simpson and the TGWU’s Woodley who were helping carry a big banner which said ‘For Trade Union Rights, Human Rights and International Solidarity’, while a band played the ‘Red Banner’.
There were workers from Land Rover and Peugeot car factories, TGWU cleaners fighting low pay, health workers fighting sackings and UEF workers fighting the closure of their pension schemes.
There was controversy at the rally at the end of the march.
RMT leader Bob Crow was speaking and said: ‘There is nothing wrong about workers standing shoulder to shoulder’ – citing the example of the BA workers who walked out in support of the Gate Gourmet workers last August.
The trade union movement has got to start ‘showing its teeth to the Labour government, like it would to a Tory government – and make sure we never see a situation like what happened at Gate Gourmet again.’
Derek Simpson of Amicus spoke after Crow and tried to rebuff him.
He said: ‘The task is to change the Labour Party. The Tory party will not give us the trade union freedom laws that we want. Neither will any other party.’
He said: ‘It would be the easiest slogan in the world to demand sod the Labour government.
‘We want no more new Labour and to go back to old Labour, that would change the laws of this country and the sooner the better.’