GOURMET LOCKOUT COSTS BA £100m

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FURIOUS locked-out Gate Gourmet workers yesterday slammed Transport and General Workers Union officials for demanding British Airways workers, who came out on strike in their support, should return to work.

Locked out Gate Gourmet workers said union officials must cease repudiating strike action by BA baggage handlers, check-in staff, caterers, drivers and other TGWU members, who immediately went on strike on Wednesday when they heard that their colleagues at Gate Gourmet, BA’s inflight catering suppliers, had been sacked.

On the picket line at Heathrow Airport yesterday morning Sarjit Singh Sandhu told News Line: ‘More than 800 Gate Gourmet workers are now sacked. More and more people on the airport are coming out to support us and we want them all out.’

The leader of the striking baggage handlers visited the picket and said ‘whatever happens we are out until these people are back in their jobs’.

And at a mass meeting of the Gate Gourmet workers held in Southall later, TGWU steward Appolo Younis from Heathrow Catering Centre West, said: ‘At the catering centre we are all out, around 200 of us. We all came out when we heard you had been sacked. We are with you all the way and we won’t go back until you are back inside.’

Mrs Dhangel said: ‘The union shouldn’t be sending the other BA workers back. It’s no good. They should be calling the rest of the airport out.

‘We are locked out workers and the union must make our dispute official.’

Sukha said: ‘If they send the BA workers back that will leave us out on our own. It’s not fair. The whole airport should be brought out.’

Before the meeting TGWU full time official John Perry told News Line: ‘We are on the verge of winning a major industrial dispute because of the bravery and courage of airport workers who have stood together.

‘About 300 baggage handlers, check-in staff and bus drivers are refusing to take up duties until their 800 colleagues at Gate Gourmet are reinstated.

‘We want talks with BA and Gate Gourmet. At the moment they are trying to wash their hands of the situation and blame each other.’

Perry went on to claim: ‘The Gate Gourmet workers are not in official dispute, they’ve been sacked.’

He continued: ‘The other workers are receiving 100 per cent support. We understand why they are doing what they are doing, but no, we don’t back them officially.

‘Whether it’s Gate Gourmet or BA, these workers need to be reinstated on their original terms and conditions. We expect these people to be reinstated.

‘How long can they keep their planes on the ground? It’s their move.’

At a mass meeting in Southall, TGWU National Secretary for Civil Aviation, Brendan Gold said: ‘I have been inundated with e-mails and messages of solidarity from all over the world, including Gate Gourmet workers in America, Brussells and Paris.’

He continued: ‘Members of the TGWU have taken action across the airport. This is unofficial action, we don’t condone it and we are trying to get them back to work.

‘We are making every effort to ensure that all the unofficial action ends straight away.’

He continued: ‘We understand the financial pressure on Gate Gourmet and we want to address it. We will be meeting with the company, hopefully this afternoon.’

Gold concluded: ‘You have the support of the General Secretary and the Executive of the TGWU. We want talks with Gate Gourmet. We want you back at work in a unit that can survive at Heathrow.’

Later, in a press conference, Gold said of the strike at British Airways: ‘It is illegal action by T&G members and we are doing everything we can to get them back to work.

‘We don’t condone it, we repudiate it. We don’t want any escalation, we want the BA workers back at work and then we can get the Gate Gourmet situation sorted.’

After the meeting Naz Sandhu said: ‘We are locked out and our jobs are inside. We are proud the other airport staff came out to support us and we want them to stay out.

‘The union should not send the BA workers back, they should call the rest of the airport out on strike.’

Yesterday late afternoon talks began between the TGWU and Gate Gourmet.

The TGWU said about the object of the talks: ‘Acas intends that the discussions are designed to find a solution to the company’s business difficulties alongside our objective of securing the reinstatement and return to work of our sacked members.’

TIPSTER McCRIRICK CONDEMNS PM BLAIR

Racing commentator John McCririck yesterday condemned Prime Minister Blair’s ‘snub’ to Robin Cook’s family by not being present at the former Labour Cabinet Minister’s funeral.

Speaking after Chancellor Brown had given the main oration at the Edinburgh service, McCririck said:

‘We are all gathered to pay our respects and affection to Robin, Gaynor and the boys and the family.

‘But there is just one exception to that. And that’s the nation’s leader, the Prime Minister.

‘Now Margaret Thatcher, of course, she attended Ted Heath’s service.

‘I believe the Prime Minster’s snub to Robin’s family, to millions of New Labour voters, demonstrates a petty vindictiveness and a moral failure, opting to continue snorkelling instead of doing his duty.’