Gate Gourmet Workers Confront Woodley And Barber

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GATE Gourmet workers lobbied the TUC General Council in central London yesterday.

They brought their banner: ‘Justice for the Sacked Gate Gourmet Workers’ and placards saying: ‘No to the Sell-Out Deal’; ‘Reinstatement for All’; ‘TUC Act Now, Get Our Jobs Back’ and ‘TGWU Leaders Don’t Play With Our Jobs’.

Parmjit Bains told News Line: ‘We’re here to say we want our jobs back. All of us. We appeal to the TUC. We all want our jobs back.

‘The company is still playing with our jobs.

‘We are opposed to all redundancies. Everybody who was dismissed by the company must be able to return to their jobs.’

The first to go in was TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber. Gate Gourmet worker Parmjit Bains told him: ‘The deal has collapsed. More than 200 have received redundancy letters.

‘Under the deal we can never work in the airport area again.’

Barber responded by turning the issue into one of extra redundancies. He said: ‘They are starting to implement the deal but I can’t understand how it could have been increased from 144 (compulsory redundancies) to over 200.

‘I’ll talk to Tony Woodley and his colleagues. If the company is not honouring the agreement it is a very serious matter.’

Asked if he would let the Gourmet workers address the General Council meeting, Barber answered: ‘I don’t think I can do that but we will talk about your situation.’

Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB union stopped and listened to the Gate Gourmet workers’ complaints.

He told them: ‘I’ll be honest with you. What we are being told is that the dispute has been settled.

‘What you’ve told me is that people being made redundant are to be restricted about where they can work in future.

‘I’ve never heard anything like that in all my born days.

‘It’s an honour to speak to you and I’m very grateful to you for speaking to me.’

When TGWU General Secretary Tony Woodley arrived, he responded angrily to TV cameras, shouting ‘Take the camera away from me!’ He went inside, surrounded by the Gate Gourmet workers.

When they came out, Jasbir told News Line: ‘Woodley was shaking. I told him there are over 200 people who have got compulsory redundancy.

‘He said: “no, it’s seven under 144”.

‘I told him, that is not the case, there are over 200, we’ve counted them. I’ve told him, I’m not accepting anything. I want my job back.

‘We told him that we won’t accept the deal. We won’t accept the terrible conditions. He said it’s the best deal and said he would not support any secondary action.’

John Hannett USDAW General Secretary told the Gourmet workers: ‘We were told at the Labour Party conference that a deal had been reached and an agreement signed.

‘If they’ve moved the goalposts, it’s completely unacceptable. Of course your struggle is to get your jobs back.

‘The whole idea of your struggle is to get a fair settlement.’

Mohamed Taj, Yorkshire TGWU lay delegate, spoke at length to the workers. He said: ‘We’ve heard reports that there is a lot of unhappiness over the deal and we will be discussing the situation on the TGWU Executive when we meet in early December.

‘The whole executive turned up on your picket line to support you in September and we will continue to support you.

‘We will certainly back you. The whole General Council will discuss it.

‘We understand that the deal involves nobody pursuing an employment tribunal and if it collapses after the ninth of November then you are all going to be left high and dry.

‘I’m very concerned and will certainly help.’

Anita Halpen, NUJ Treasurer, said: ‘You should never have been sacked in the first place.’

Dougie Rooney, AMICUS delegate said: ‘I heard that a deal had been accepted. I’m very concerned at what you are telling me. I will make sure it is raised at today’s meeting. It will certainly be raised.’

GMB delegate Peter Amphlett said: ‘I’m definitely concerned about this. You all live close to the airport and there can’t be many jobs.

‘Under this deal, you don’t get an answer to your situation until after the deadline for putting in for employment tribunals.

‘Where have I heard that before? You must all put in for your tribunals now.’

After the end of the lobby, Gourmet worker Chaanan Rattu told News Line: ‘It was well worth coming up here today.

‘We chased the union leaders. We told them we all want our jobs back. The TUC knows what’s going on now and we want them to do something for us.’

Parmjit said: ‘We gave them a headache. They did a rubbish deal and couldn’t face us. They’ve tried to sell us but we won’t be sold.

‘Some of them were running when we wanted to talk to them but we got good support from others.’