‘THEY are trying to break our unity. We reject this deal,’ Gate Gourmet picket Mrs Gill said yesterday.

She was responding to proposals brought forward to the mass picket at Heathrow Airport by Transport and General Workers Union District Officer Oliver Richardson.

Richardson told pickets: ‘Yesterday at the TUC an agreement was made. The company has acknowledged that you exist and they have an obligation to you.

‘They are going to write to everyone, inside and out.

‘Those inside will be offered severance, those outside will be offered compensation. It will amount to two times weekly earnings, times years of service.

‘They are writing letters to everyone and you can sign if you want to. We will then look at who wants reinstatement.

‘We know the company wants to pick and choose who comes back. Our position is still that everyone who wants to go back must go back, but if you don’t want to go back you should sign the compensation deal.

‘This is an important breakthrough. The next step will be looking at people who want to go back to work.’

However, pickets disagreed.

Mr H Singh told News Line: ‘The company is trying to divide us up. We have already had this offer. It is the same offer we had before. We said no then and we say no now.

‘We will all stay and we won’t be divided. If the company wants an agreement they must take everyone back and we can negotiate then.

‘Reject this deal. People are not here for a bit of money, they want their permanent jobs back.

‘And we want and need our shop stewards. They are no different from the rest of us. They are just leading us. We selected them. They are not troublemakers.

‘I think we should take a strong reaction to this and call the whole airport out.’

Mr T Singh said: ‘There is no deal. This company will not break our unity. Our message to the TGWU and to Gate Gourmet is – Reinstatement for All!

‘Only then can we discuss things – when we are inside.

‘We will not accept this deal. Our position is the same as it was – All out, All in!’

Atwal said: ‘We will go back all together. That’s our deal – reinstatement for everyone. We don’t want redundancy and we won’t accept the deal.

‘The company wants to pick and choose who they have back – we say No Way!’

A TGWU press officer told News Line: ‘After constructive talks on Thursday night progress has been made with a framework agreement to deal with voluntary redundancies. Further meetings will take place in due course.

‘What is going to happen at the minute is that everyone in the company is going to be asked if they want to take voluntary redundancy.

‘When people have replied, the union and the company will have a clear idea about how many want to stay and then we will have a clear idea where we go from there.

‘This is a breakthrough. Two weeks ago they sacked a lot of our people saying none of them are coming back.

‘Now they are saying that they can apply for their jobs back or apply for redundancy. It is significant progress.’

When asked what about those the company has described as ‘200 troublemakers’ who they claim they will not reinstate, the union officer replied: ‘We will cross that bridge when we come to it’.

British Airways has said it will sign a new deal with Gate Gourmet only after the dispute is resolved.

• Second news story


THE Royal College of Nursing has accused the government of beginning the privatisation of nurses, via ‘a mass transfer of clinical primary care staff to unidentified employers and agencies’.

The RCN warned yesterday that ‘decisions which will dramatically change the way primary care is provided have already been made – without any patient or public involvement’.

The RCN explained: ‘In July, Sir Nigel Crisp sent a letter to the Chief Executives of all NHS organisations to put together plans to merge primary care trusts (PCTs) and strategic health authorities (SHAs).

‘The new plans will mean that PCTs will find “their role in provision reduced to a minimum.”

‘Instead, agencies from the private, independent and voluntary sector, rather than the NHS, will provide most patient care.

‘This shift in the provision of care, which will mean that many NHS beds and NHS nurses move to the private sector, has been decided upon without asking the public what they think.’

The RCN told News Line those in line to be privatised include district nurses, health visitors, community nurses and community psychiatric nurses, as well as some nurses in doctors’ surgeries.

Tom Sandford, Director of RCN England, said: ‘These changes could result in beds, nurses and entire clinical care teams being moved out of the NHS into the private or voluntary sector.

‘The NHS could be reduced to little more than a logo with the introduction of a market-led health service.

‘The pace and scale of reform will further pressurise the service and take people’s attention off what really matters: high quality patient care.’

Meanwhile, BMA Consultants’ Committee Chairman, Dr Paul Miller has written to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt expressing doctors’ concerns that job losses and department closures in hospital trusts in England could be on the cards because of the financial crisis of some trusts.

In his letter Dr Miller said cuts would ‘pose a significant threat to patient care and innovation in the NHS’.

Consultants were increasingly infuriated that money was not getting to the NHS frontline.

Dr Miller added: ‘The cash shortages in the NHS contrast dramatically with the generous terms negotiated with companies such as Netcare UK and Alliance Medical despite significant under-performance.’