TGWU must defend BA shop stewards say GateGourmet workers

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‘We have rejected the deal between the TGWU leaders and Gate Gourmet and put in for our employment tribunals.

‘The TGWU and TUC leaders who negotiated the deal and those other leaders who supported it should all resign.’

Locked-out Gate Gourmet TGWU shop steward Gurdip Hear was speaking to News Line on the picket line at Heathrow Airport on Sunday.

‘To start with, our union leaders and senior shop stewards said we would all go back to work together.

‘Then they backed this deal, under which all of us would have had to sign away all our rights and half of us would be left jobless.

‘We’ve rejected the deal. Our picketing is continuing every day.

‘We will support the BA workers and their shop stewards who are threatened with being victimised and sacked for supporting us.

‘If these guys get sacked, then all the BA workers will come out.’

Gurdip concluded: ‘We want to hold a national demonstration to show that we are still fighting to win reinstatement of all of us back into our jobs on our original terms and conditions.’

Lakhvinder Saran said: ‘We’ve heard that the BA shop stewards who were suspended after their members came out to support us, had their disciplinary hearings on Friday and that there are further hearings on the 16th or 18th of November.

‘If these workers are sacked it will be a major challenge and the TGWU must use its power to defend them, or no one will trust the union in the future.’

Fellow picket Rashpal Singh added: ‘More than fifty per cent of people have sent their own employment tribunal forms in.

‘And the union solicitor says he is putting claims in for the others.

‘When we ask the union officers if the deal has collapsed they say no.

‘But it has collapsed; it’s a rotten deal which we won’t accept.’

• Second news story

5,500 GAS ENGINEERS STRIKE BALLOT

5,500 British Gas engineers will be balloted on strike action in the run-up to Christmas over the company’s plans to close the Centrica final salary pension scheme for new starters from April 2006, says their union, GMB.

The GMB added in a statement yesterday: ‘The result of the ballot will be known around midday on 25th November 2005.

‘If any industrial action results from the ballot, it will begin in December.

‘An unofficial consultative ballot has shown that this highly skilled and union organised workforce is opposed to the company’s plans to disadvantage future British Gas engineers and that there is a wish to take action to protect their new colleagues’ pensions rights.

‘GMB expects that the next valuation will show the scheme to be virtually fully funded and completely viable.

‘Only two years ago, the members and Centrica agreed to increase employees’ contributions by one per cent in order to keep the scheme open.

‘Talks on the future of the pension fund ended in stalemate.’

GMB National Officer brian Strutton said: ‘I doubt that GMB members will be up for selling off the pension rights of future British Gas engineers.

‘I’m sure they are ready to take industrial action to secure the scheme for everyone in the future.’

He added: ‘Keeping in mind that the weather forecasters are saying that the winter is going to be extremely cold, we need to get this sorted out as soon as possible.’