‘Reject this agreement and carry on with the industrial action,’ Billy Colvill, CWU rep from south east London, yesterday urged the union’s postal executive, which meets today.
Speaking at the over 400-strong Gate Gourmet sacked workers second anniversary benefit rally in Southall, west London, he condemned an attempt by CWU leaders Billy Hayes and Dave Ward to call off the postal workers’ struggle.
Colvill demanded that the CWU executive defy the injunction brought by Royal Mail to ban strikes and added that if they caved to the bosses they would be betraying the thousands of postal workers and CWU reps who have refused to accept so-called ‘flexibility’ and any tampering with postal workers’ pensions.
Colvill said the workforce was determined to beat Royal Mail, warning: ‘This is a new era where what happened to the Gate Gourmet employees faces all of us in the trade union movement.
‘Reject this agreement, call for the resignation of our general secretary Billy Hayes and deputy general general secretary Dave Ward and replace them with a leadership that reflects the interests of the members and not big business and the Labour government.’
The sacked Gate Gourmet workers vowed to continue their struggle until victory.
The first speaker at the rally, Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell, condemned the ‘brutal treatment’ of the airport workers. He paid tribute to them for fighting on behalf of the whole working class.
He added: ‘It’s not only the Gate Gourmet workers, it’s the Freemantle workers, the Post Office workers and many others.
‘Global companies, transnational corporations are taking over contracts and cutting wages and conditions, and also slashing pensions. Gate Gourmet is just the first of many.’
McDonnell urged ‘solidarity’ between the whole labour and trade union movement to defeat the anti-union laws.
Sacked Gate Gourmet worker Parmjit Bains said: ‘We are Asian workers from the local community and have been locked out by Gate Gourmet for two years since August 10th 2005.
‘At 6am casual workers were brought into our plant to take our jobs. The company had a plan to cut costs and employ cheaper labour.’
She added: ‘Management said “talk to your union leaders”. We waited in the canteen to meet our leaders in the T&G, who told us not to return to work until the matter was resolved.’
She said that the workers were held in the canteen for six hours then forcibly removed.
She added that afternoon shift workers were also told they were sacked as well as those workers who tried to go to work the next morning. About 800 people were locked out.
Workers walked out at Heathrow to support them. Parmjit added: ‘BA lost millions of pounds and we would have won if those workers had been allowed to stay out, but the union leaders got them back to work the next day.’
The workers picketed Heathrow and TGWU leader Tony Woodley pledged that they would all return together to their jobs.
But the TGWU ‘made a deal with the bosses for a “compromise agreement”. They said if we didn’t take unlawful dismissal, or legal action, some might get jobs but there would be 144 compulsory redundancies and conditions would change.
‘We refused to sign – they stopped our hardship money but we continued our fight.’
She concluded: ‘We have been very badly treated. We are determined not to give up. Many workers face the same struggle, look at the postal workers.
‘This government supports sacking workers. We are fighting for a new leadership in the union that fights for its members.’
Former Hillingdon Hospital strike leader Malkiat Bilku said: ‘We stood there for five long years at Hillingdon and we beat one company and another company and the trade union leaders who said we couldn’t win and the High Court injunction.’
She added: ‘There are many workers who are struggling these days like the postal workers. We are behind them as well; they work in all weathers.’
Niaz Faiz, PCS DEFRA group executive committee member, told the rally: ‘PCS are balloting at the same time as local government workers in UNISON over very similar issues.
‘I would therefore very strongly argue that there’s every reason for both UNISON and my union to coordinate any strike action to make them more effective and raise the political temperature against Brown’s attacks.
‘We need to show solidarity with each other. Together we can win.’
Hengride Permal, chair of the Chagos Islanders Community Association, said: ‘An injustice was done to the Gate Gourmet workers the same way it was done to us, when we were forced out of our islands.’
Film maker Ken Loach told the rally that the solidarity shown by British Airways workers in support of the Gate Gourmet workers when they were locked out could have defeated the employers.
‘It’s only through solidarity we can win,’ he said, calling for a leadership in the unions that is determined to get victories.
Other speakers included Richard Kassir (CWU), Lakhinder Saran and Paddy O’Regan (News Line editor).