GATE GOURMET WORKERS DEMAND TUC ACTION – ‘to win all our jobs back’

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A LARGE number of sacked Gate Gourmet catering workers from Heathrow were on their way to Brighton to lobby the Trades Union Congress early this morning – where they are going to demand immediate action by the TUC to win all their jobs back on their current terms and conditions of service.

‘I ask the TUC to ensure that all, I repeat all, my members are reinstated in our jobs on our original terms and conditions,’ said Jarnail Singh, Gate Gourmet Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G) branch secretary, speaking yesterday.

‘We do want an emergency resolution at the TUC,’ he continued. ‘We want a resolution calling action to win our jobs back now.’

Sacked workers on the picket line yesterday said they were ‘very angry’ at the T&G leaders, who said on Friday that they had ‘agreed with Gate Gourmet selection criteria for redundancy and the process for ratifying the company’s rescue plans.’

The locked-out workers said they would not accept redundancies, insisting they were all sacked together and the T&G and the TUC must make sure they all go back together.

Jarnail Singh said: ‘Our action was not unofficial, it was provoked, and the union must declare it official at once and win it.’

Picket Sadiq Merchant added yesterday: ‘The union must take everyone back in.

‘If this company gets away with it here, companies will do it everywhere, get rid of workers on proper wages and conditions and replace them with cheap labour.

‘The TUC must put a stop to this and support us.’

Fellow picket Jasvir said: ‘We want our jobs back. I am so angry and upset at the way we have been treated.

‘I have worked here for six years and my whole family is terribly upset. I need my job.

‘We have been treated like dogs – just thrown away.’

Gate Gourmet sacked more than 670 workers on August 10, sparking a walk-out by British Airways staff at Heathrow, when the T&G described the company, which supplies meals to BA flights, as ‘bandit capitalists’ for their actions.

T&G General Secretary Tony Woodley told reporters at an eve of TUC press conference in Brighton yesterday: ‘This TUC is important.

‘At the TUC we will be looking at the difficult dispute at Gate Gourmet, that has been going on for the past five weeks.’

He added: ‘There is no resolution yet. We do need to keep pressure on Gate Gourmet and on British Airways.

‘The TUC comes before the Labour Party conference. It’s crucial that we remind the government that we want to have legislation that doesn’t allow workers to be sacked so easily.’

Woodley concluded that he did not see the dispute being settled before the end of the Labour Party conference.

News Line asked Woodley about the T&G press release, which said that the union had agreed criteria for redundancies.

Did this change the T&G’s position that all workers would go back together on the same conditions? Had the T&G position changed?

Woodley replied: ‘Nothing has changed at all.

‘We’ve been trying to negotiate with Gate Gourmet.

‘At one point, Dave Siegel, the Texas boss, said no worker would go back at all.

‘It means at the moment not a single employee is going back in the company.’

Asked to clarify if the union was calling for the workers to be taken back on their original terms and conditions, Woodley said there would be no cut in wages.

He added: ‘Members voted to reject the changes (in working conditions).’

He went on: ‘One week tomorrow will be the next set of meetings with Gate Gourmet and there will be another meeting with them the following Friday (September 23).’

At an earlier press conference, Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, told News Line: ‘Gate Gourmet is an appalling example of totally unacceptable employer behaviour and it raises questions of the need for legislation to protect employees at work.’

He claimed: ‘We’ve been giving the T&G all the support we can to try to get justice for the Gate Gourmet workers.

‘I’ve been working closely with the T&G to try to get negotiations with the employers going.’

• Second news story

MOTORWAY BLOCKADE PLANNED FOR FRIDAY

PLANS are underway for new fuel protests, following the blockades of 2000 that brought refineries and petrol stations to a standstill.

Leaders of the People’s Fuel Lobby last week demanded an immediate cut in taxation to bring fuel prices down, after prices at the pump soared to more than 95p a litre and almost £1.00 for diesel.

But Chancellor Gordon Brown yesterday ruled out tax cuts to ease forecourt prices and pointed the finger of blame at the OPEC oil producing states, accusing them of not responding quickly enough to a surging demand for oil from China.

He called on OPEC to increase supplies and relieve pressure on prices, while refusing to say whether he would freeze the duty on fuel in the UK in this autumn’s pre-Budget report.

The South Wales Hauliers’ Association said at the weekend that it is planning a blockade of the M4 this Friday.

Fuel lobby leaders are asking for an urgent meeting with government ministers or there could be a blockade of all refineries from Wednesday morning.

Motorists yesterday reported that some garages were already charging over £1.00 a litre for petrol.