GATE Gourmet locked out workers got great support from trade unionists at the Tolpuddle Martyrs anniversary march and festival in Dorset yesterday.
Over eight thousand trade unionists marched with the agricultural workers unions’ leading.
They were followed by the Gate Gourmet locked out workers and their banner, and trade union delegations from all over the country.
Many trade unionists spoke to the Gate Gourmet workers and pledged support for their first anniversary march and rally in Southall on Sunday 20th of August.
Joan Anniballi, a UNISON shop steward from Farnham, Surrey, bought two tickets for the rally.
She told News Line: ‘I’ve been following the Gate Gourmet workers and I think they should be supported by the TGWU.
‘All workers should stick together because next time it could be you.
‘There is too much hiring and firing going on. There has never been a time to stand more firmly together than now.’
PCS member Richard Kelsall from Bicester, near Oxford, said: ‘It’s indefensible that the Gate Gourmet workers have had their hardship payments stopped.
‘The union must be seen to be following its members’ wishes.
‘It must be led by its members not by the executive.’
NASUWT member Joe Langley from Salford bought his ticket for the rally and added: ‘We’ve been calling on our union to work with the TUC to get it sorted.
‘It’s outrageous the way these trade union members have been treated.
‘It is opening the door for certain types of managers to take advantage.
‘The T&G should restore their hardship payments and support them through their tribunals.
‘That’s what the union is for.‘If they can’t fight on this, they won’t fight for anything.
‘My branch is going to contribute to these workers’ financial appeal.
‘I will see the treasurer and I will also raise it at the next meeting of the northwest TUC.’
South west UNISON member Tony Hill said: ‘I’m shocked that the union has stopped the hardship pay.
‘These workers have got my wholehearted support and I will ask my branch to send finance.’
Dave Fegan, PCS Southampton, bought his ticket for the rally and said: ‘It doesn’t seem like a year ago.
‘I’ve seen the Gate Gourmet workers on the anti-war demonstrations in London.
‘And I will be proud to march with them on their anniversary.’
‘Last summer, I was most impressed that the British Airways workers came out in sympathy strike action to support them.’
Judy Platt, Camden UNISON, added: ‘It’s disgraceful that the union has stopped their hardship pay.
‘I will come on the march through Southall.’
TGWU member Steve Lenieck said: ‘I’m a farm worker and I’m in full support of these workers.
‘My angle would be that we have a major campaign underway now in the T&G concerning migrant workers and the way they are treated.
‘A group of 5,000 Polish strawberry pickers in Worcestershire are suffering very bad treatment.
‘We are trying to work with Tesco to ensure that they are properly paid and have trade union representation.
‘The danger is that migrant workers could become an underclass.’
At the end of the Tolpuddle rally yesterday, Gate Gourmet locked out worker Parmjit Bains said: ‘We got fantastic support.
‘Many people said they would come to our anniversary rally, even all the way from Scotland.
‘We got support and donations from Transport and General Workers Union members and members of all other unions.
‘But we are not happy with the organisers, not at all.
‘They all favoured the union leaders and not the members.
‘We were begging them to let us speak, even just for two minutes but they refused.
‘Then we said please will you announce our anniversary rally but they refused this as well.
‘And they even pushed me. They pushed me badly and I nearly fell over.
‘Brendan Barber (TUC general secretary) made a speech. He was talking about justice but he didn’t do justice for us.
‘He sold us. I told him this to his face but he said that the union had done all it could.
‘I told him that in future we will never trust the union leaders.’