Replacement workers were brought into Gate Gourmet transport department

Sacked Gate Gourmet workers marching through Southall on the first anniversary of their dismissal
Sacked Gate Gourmet workers marching through Southall on the first anniversary of their dismissal

GATE Gourmet managers yesterday continued to present their witness statements on the third day of the sacked Gate Gourmet workers employment tribunal in Reading.

They referred to the events of the 10th and 11th August when 800 workers were sacked and locked out.

Karon Curl, Human Resources officer of the transport section of Gate Gourmet at Heathrow airport, confirmed to the tribunal that she went to the training office on the 10th August and escorted about 30 people to the transport section.

She said that they were Gate Gourmet employees who worked at other departments plus some new employees.

The barrister for the locked out workers remarked: ‘That she had acquired 30 new workers immediately’.

Curl replied ‘Not new, all had their airside experience. They just came from different departments.’

It was put to her that a considerable degree of planning must have gone into providing airside passes and that the intention was to take over the jobs of the employees, that were in the canteen that morning.

Curl agreed that on the following day she was working with security at the car park entrance to deal with the afternoon shift.

She added that she had a list of workers and that the security guards checked the passes of anyone entering.

She said that if they didn’t have a pass, they would be referred to her and she would check the list and tell them if they were still employed or not.

In answer to a question of who grants airside passes, she replied that it was the British Airports Authority.

She confirmed that these passes were not transferable from one company to another – someone getting a pass whilst working for one company would have to re-apply if they moved to another company.

Gate Gourmet transport department duty manager David Rodgers was asked how many Gate Gourmet-owned Versa Logistics staff were waiting off site to come in on the 10th August.

He said: ‘I would guess about twenty.’

Rodgers was asked if he had been briefed by senior management that staff would be dismissed if they took industrial action.

He replied: ‘No.’

Narinder Hayer, a manager in the despatch department was questioned over the use of seasonal workers.

He stated that his department did not take on seasonal workers and he had not briefed staff that seasonal workers were coming in.

He claimed not to have known that they were coming into his department on the 10th August until just before they arrived.

He stated that he noticed that the staff had stopped working and that some told him that they were worried about their jobs because temporary staff were coming in.

Gate Gourmet shift controller Kuldip Shukla confirmed that the employment of seasonal workers was different than in previous years.

Previously, seasonal workers had been mainly drawn from the sons and daughters, and other relatives, of existing staff and employed to cover the busy summer season.

‘That year was different’, he said.

Harbinder Mian, production manager, was asked was it unusual to have seasonal workers on August 10th when usually they are from mid-June to mid-September. She said ‘the difference was that we were in a survival plan.’

She added: ‘The ladies told me they weren’t refusing to work.’

The tribunal chairman remarked: ‘A constant theme in what you are saying is that they were not refusing to go to work.’

Rajbir Johal, an office controller, said: ‘When we were taking the ID passes from the workers, two or three ladies said “Can we return to work?” they were so shocked they didn’t expect this would happen.

Their feelings were they wanted to go back to work.’

Johal said that Mrs Brar had phoned up and asked what to do as she was on leave.

Johal added that she told her that before she could come to work she would be asked whether she was with the union or the management.