‘SLAVE-DRIVING GATE GOURMET’ says Jarnail Singh, locked-out workers branch secretary

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GATE Gourmet locked-out workers’ branch secretary Jarnail Singh condemned the company for ‘slave driving’ yesterday.

He said: ‘They made their plans a long time ago to sack people and bring people in on new contracts.

‘They are working people very fast, they are making people slaves and they don’t care about health and safety.

‘They made their plans and sacked people who were on holiday and on rest days, they dismissed us all unfairly.

‘We are going to our employment tribunals and we are going to win.

Singh added: ‘The union is trying to get people who are working inside the plant to come to the May Day march as well.’

Eric Born, the managing director of Gate Gourmet UK and Ireland, earlier yesterday revealed that the company had re-engaged just 252 workers in the period since it locked out 800 workers on August 10th 2005.

It had pledged to the TGWU that around 395 workers would be re-engaged.

Born claimed startling increases in productivity in the last six months at the plant, after the TGWU leaders consented to the application of the company’s survival programme, and agreed its ‘Compromise Agreement’.

Born said: ‘The rise in productivity was accompanied by a large fall in the number of days lost due to sickness . . . The removal of “outdated work practices” provides the company with the necessary cost structure to be competitive in the market place.’

He claimed that the number of economy class bar trolleys packed at the Heathrow South unit has increased from 34 per employee per day in August 2005 to 53 per employee per day in March 2006 – an improvement of 56 per cent.

‘The number of hours lost in the first quarter due to staff sickness at the Heathrow South production unit fell by 58 per cent relative to the previous year. The sickness rate at Gate Gourmet’s Heathrow South production unit is now 3 per cent’ and ‘the number of paid overtime hours required to be worked has fallen by 76 per cent in the first quarter 2006 compared to 2005.’

All thanks to the TGWU leaders who stabbed the locked out workers in the back to make a deal with Gate Gourmet supporting its speed up, wage cutting, and mass sacking plans.

However, Born was still very cautious about the company’s prospects and revealed, ‘There is still a long way to go but we are now seeing real improvements in productivity at Gate Gourmet. . .

‘Sickness is falling and productivity is rising. Of course, we have to keep up the momentum to continually make improvements in both to secure the future of our company and the jobs that go with it.’ The company and jobs are still not secure!

He revealed that even after the bonanza that the TGWU leaders had made available to them through their agreement with the survival programme and the sacking of up to 450 workers, the company was not even breaking even.

He said: ‘As a result of the progress we are now making, I am hopeful that Gate Gourmet UK & Ireland will break even this financial year,’ said Mr Born.

The number of former staff in receipt of compensation payments was put at 409 by Gate Gourmet. It produced no figure for the numbers of workers it had sacked or the number who had refused to sign the compromise agreement and who it will be facing in industrial tribunal cases in June.

The company stated that it employs 881 workers at its Heathrow South site and 2,361 at Gate Gourmet UK and Ireland.

On Hounslow High Street Abdul Begum, the husband of one of the locked-out workers, told News Line: ‘The trade unions must support those who have lost their living, it’s their duty to fulfil the locked-out workers’ demands.

‘We are not begging. Gate Gourmet are testing their capitalist ideology sacking long-term workers who were very faithful to the company and replacing them with temporary contract staff who they can use as they need, with no obligation to keep them.

‘We need a strong leadership from the union and we should replace those leaders who support capitalism.

‘We have to remain united to remove this sort of leadership, so everyone should join the May Day march and march with us.’