GOURMET CRISIS! – Siegel flies back to the USA

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THERE WERE no talks yesterday between the TGWU and Gate Gourmet bosses after its chairman David Siegel flew back to the US for crisis meetings with the company chiefs.

This was after talks broke down on Tuesday evening at the TUC, with Brendan Gold the union’s chief negotiator condemning the Gate Gourmet bosses for walking out after saying that ‘200 troublemakers’ would not be returning to the factory.

The company then issued a statement that the talks would be resuming yesterday, but these fell through after the departure of the company chairman.

A spokesman for Gate Gourmet said that Siegel had returned to Texas ‘for a few days’ and would be returning at the weekend.

The firm stressed that ‘informal’ talks are continuing despite his absence.

Tony Woodley, head of the TGWU, held a private meeting with TUC general secretary Brendan Barber and others to assess what went wrong during Tuesday’s talks with Gate Gourmet.

TGWU chief negotiator Brendan Gold accused the firm of leaving the talks, saying: ‘I’m very disappointed and disgusted at the way things have been concluded this evening.’

However, Gate Gourmet denied it had walked away, saying it was ‘cautiously optimistic’ of agreeing a deal on Wednesday despite the latest news of the chairman’s departure.

‘The hardliners and militants are never coming back,’ David Siegel insisted on Tuesday, maintaining that there were at least 200 of these.

Gate Gourmet strikers yesterday were unanimous in denouncing proposals by the company to allow some of them back on changed terms and conditions.

Raj Johal spoke about how the company walked out of negotiations. She told News Line: ‘They have been doing the same thing for the past seven months.

‘Every time talks are arranged Gate Gourmet either walk out or don’t turn up in the first place.

‘They say they want to change our conditions and they want to exclude 200 of us from any settlement.

‘Our answer is: “No! Never!” ’

Picket Shahal said: ‘We certainly reject what the company is proposing.

‘We will only go back on the terms and conditions of the contract that we have already signed and Gate Gourmet has already signed.

‘It is them that have broken the contract, not us.

‘They locked us out. And we will all go back together. They can’t treat any of us differently.

‘None of us are “troublemakers”, none of us are “militants”. We are just ordinary workers with families to support.’

Mrs Sidhu said: ‘We all came out together and we’re all going back together on the original terms and conditions.

‘We want this over now.’

TGWU national officer Paul Baulch spoke to the assembled mass picket on the bank at Heathrow.

He told them: ‘ “All Out, All In” is our position. BA confirmed that there would be no new deal with your employer until this dispute is settled. Talks are continuing.’

He later told assembled press and media: ‘Our negotiation team will continue until we do a deal satisfying all our members.

‘As we stand here today, our position is everybody back in.’

In response to questioning regarding gate Gourmet’s proposals Baulch said: ‘I don’t believe there are any “troublemakers”.

‘These people are a credit to the whole trade union movement’.

In response to another question, Baulch replied: ‘It’s been made very clear by our general secretary that our position is that everyone gets their jobs back.’

• Second news story

CLARKE’S DRACONIAN MEASURES

‘Home Secretary, Charles Clarke yesterday published plans for a new raft of draconian ‘anti-terror’ measures, listing ‘certain types of behaviours that will form the basis for excluding and deporting individuals from the UK’.

The list makes clear that Clarke will use his powers to deport and exclude from the UK ‘those who engage in these types of behaviour’, adding that those who would ‘attempt to foment terrorism or provoke others to commit terrorist acts’ will be deported.

Human rights organisation Liberty expressed serious concern at these wide-ranging measures.

James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty, said: ‘Today’s announcement fails to answer the fundamental question; will the Government’s deportation plans result in suspects being sent to countries with a known record of torture?

‘What has always separated us from the terrorists is that we do not torture people or send them to be tortured – that is the standard we need to maintain.

‘Our view is clear we believe it is better for terrorist suspects be tried than shuffled around the world.

‘If they have to be deported then at the very least there must be corroboration and robust involvement from international human rights monitors.’

The Muslim Council of Britain was also concerned, saying that the list of ‘unacceptable behaviours’ announced by Clarke as grounds for exclusion of foreign nationals ‘is considered by the MCB to be too wide and unclear’.

Calling for ‘a full and proper consultation before these are finalised’, the MCB stressed: ‘The objective of such policy should be to protect national security, but it needs to be done in a way that is in accord with international legitimacy as enshrined in the UN Charter and resolutions and international instruments with regard to the inalienable rights of the peoples.’

The Home Office list of ‘unacceptable behaviours’ covers ‘any non-UK citizen whether in the UK or abroad who uses any means or medium.’

These include ‘writing, producing, publishing or distributing material; public speaking including preaching; running a website; or using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader’.

It will be an offence ‘to express views which foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts; or foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK’.

Clarke said yesterday: ‘The terrorist threat facing the UK remains real and significant and it is right that the government and law enforcement agencies do everything possible to counter it.’

He added that ‘those who seek to foster hatred or promote terrorism are not welcome in the UK’.

Clarke said: ‘Individuals who seek to create fear, distrust and division in order to stir up terrorist activity will not be tolerated by the government or by our communities.’

He said that he intends to use these powers ‘in a measured and targeted way’.

The Home Office statement concluded: ‘A database of individuals around the world who have demonstrated these unacceptable behaviours will be developed and will be available to entry clearance and immigration officers.’