MAKE THE DISPUTE OFFICIAL!– call out the airport! – Locked out Gate Gourmet work

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Locked out workers at British Airways caterer Gate Gourmet demanded their dispute be made official as talks between the company and the Transport and General Workers Union resumed at ACAS yesterday morning at 11am.

Talks were still continuing yesterday afternoon.

Attempts by the company to divide them were rejected by the locked-out workers, who demanded all 800 Gate Gourmet employees are reinstated on their original terms and conditions.

On the picket line yesterday, locked-out worker Grewal told News Line: ‘I was on my rest day and I’ve received a letter saying that I can appeal against dismissal.

‘But I’m sticking with my colleagues. We are all in this together. All back together or no one goes back.’

TGWU shop steward Kulwant Semhi said: ‘The TGWU must make the dispute official.

‘We want the BA workers back out again.

‘We want to return on our original terms and conditions and working practices, and we must all return together. We must not allow the company to divide us up.

‘We need strong leadership, otherwise we will lose as we lost at LSG Skychef.’

Gate Gourmet driver, Pete Reynolds told News Line: ‘We are upset the British Airways workers were sent back.

‘They came out in sympathy and wanted to support us. Our own union leaders told them to go back; they didn’t want to go back.

‘One of the blokes stopped me and told me they told the union they didn’t want to go back but were told they had to.

‘We would have won this in two days if they had stayed out, without a doubt.

‘But there has been blatant strike-breaking by our own union leaders.

‘The BA workers must come out again straight away, not just for our sake but for their own as well.’

A British Airways TGWU rep said: ‘I would expect my members to come out again if need be. There is a great deal of feeling inside.

‘These members have been treated abominably.’

Reports in the Sunday papers said BA is planning to slash its 2,500 baggage handling workforce by 15 per cent.

Malkiat Bilku, who led a 5-year strike to victory in 2000 at the nearby Hillingdon Hospital, visited the Gate Gourmet picket.

She said: ‘The whole airport should be called out until the Gate Gourmet workers are reinstated in their jobs on the same working conditions and with no victimisations.

‘You have to stand firm for basic principles. At Hillingdon we only won because we fought the union leaders when necessary.

‘The first thing we did was make the union make our dispute official.

‘The Gate Gourmet struggle should be official. They are locked out.’

Ealing Southall Labour MP Piara Khabra, who supported the Skychefs sell-out, visited the picket line yesterday where he called for all the locked-out Gate Gourmet workers to be immediately reinstated on their original terms and conditions.

TGWU officer Tom Chinery attended the picket line on Saturday. Commenting on the talks at ACAS, he said: ‘We are hoping for a settlement. Our bottom line is a full return of all the workers.’

• Second News story

SIX US SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ

Six US soldiers have been killed in roadside bombings and a shooting in 24 hours, the US military confirmed yesterday, as talks over a new constitution to prepare the way for another puppet Iraqi government remained deadlocked.

Three US troops were killed in a roadside bombing late last Friday near Tuz, 150km north of Baghdad, the military said on Sunday. Another soldier was wounded in the blast and evacuated.

One soldier on patrol was killed on Sunday and three others were wounded in a blast east of Rutbah, 400km west of Baghdad, a US military statement added. In another roadside bombing, one soldier was killed on Saturday and another wounded in western Baghdad.

In a separate statement issued in Baghdad, the US military said that one soldier was found dead on Friday of a gunshot wound. An investigation was under way. The statement did not say where the soldier was found or if an attack was suspected in his death.

Also last Friday, a US Apache helicopter was downed near Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Two wounded US personnel were recovered and driven to hospital.