THIRTY FIVE locked out Gate Gourmet workers yesterday went to see Brendan Gold, the TGWU’s Head of Civil Aviation.
He is one of the trade union signatories (the other is the TUC general secretary Brendan Barber) to the notorious ‘Compromise Agreement’, which sells workers’ employment rights and jobs to the Gate Gourmet airport catering company for a pittance, and accepts over 144 compulsory redundancies.
On August 10, Gate Gourmet locked out over 700 workers. The Compromise Agreement accepts that up to 350 workers will lose their jobs, and up to 400 could be reinstated, provided all the workers sign statements giving up their employment rights and the redundant workers pledge that they will never seek employment with Gate Gourmet, its affiliated companies or associate companies.
Gold told the locked out workers: ‘As far as I am concerned the dispute is finished. Eighty have signed the Compromise Agreement and they were the most difficult people to get to sign because they were compulsorily sacked.’
He was asked: ‘What are you going to do for the other 80 who won’t sign?’
He replied: ‘I will do my best to get people to sign the agreement and if not we will defend you legally.’
He was told by the locked out workers. ‘We want to claim unpaid wages’. He replied: ‘Gate Gourmet will never pay your unpaid wages since you have been out.’
Gold claimed that there was a democratic vote to accept the deal at the Monsoon Hall meeting ‘and the majority of the workers do not want to fight’.
Mrs Gupta disputed this angrily. She said: ‘You have done exactly the same as the bosses. You gave us three minutes at the Monsoon to vote for the deal.
‘How could we know what it was when it was 11 pages long and no one told us about it at the meeting.’
A number of the locked out workers insisted that it was not explained to them what the 11 page deal was all about.
Gold insisted: ‘We have a precedent for compulsory sackings at Gatwick, where the company was allowed to pick and choose who they could sack, it was a worse deal than yours.’
He said: ‘The dispute has been solved. We are in the process of speeding up the deal.’
Gold concluded by saying; ‘If you don’t want this deal, that is your problem. We will have to disagree.
‘We are accelerating the voluntary redundancies and the re-engagement of people.
‘Compulsory redundancies are a fact of life. I don’t like it.
‘140 of you feel aggrieved because you have been made compulsorily redundant. But the union had to follow the agreed procedure.
‘We hope to have the dispute settled by December 6.’
This declaration was greeted with laughter and cries of ‘company man’ from the locked out workers.
After the meeting, angry Gate Gourmet workers spoke to News Line.
Parmjit Bains said: ‘Brendan Gold didn’t give us any acceptable answers, he was talking the company’s language all the time. First he said the dispute is over and again and again he said we had to sign the compromise deal.
‘When we said we wouldn’t he said he can’t please everybody. We are very angry and not satisfied with his answers.
‘The three-stage deal has collapsed, that’s a victory for us, now we must win reinstatement for all of us.’
Mrs Jasbir Gupta said: ‘Brendan Gold had no answers, he is trying to divide us up. We told him we won’t sign and the dispute is not over. We said we want proper dispute payments, a shelter and heating on the picket line.’
Mrs G Sidhu said: ‘Gold is mixed up with the company, he is the company’s spoon to serve their poison.’
Mrs A Gill said: ‘Brendan Gold doesn’t feel anything for the 144 compulsory redundancies. He just said he wants the majority to sign.’
Mrs Jasbir Desangh said: ‘Everything Gold said was in favour of the company, he gave no satisfactory answers.’
Simi added: ‘We said why are the union reps phoning people’s homes and telling them to sign? He had no answer.’
Mrs Lakhvinder Saran said: ‘We asked why they put the conditions on the Compromise Agreement, saying that we can’t work for Gate Gourmet-associated companies in the future. There was no satisfactory answer.
‘We said we need payment of all lost earnings and Gold said the company won’t pay.
‘The only thing we got from him was that he would talk with the Hillingdon branch about a proper shelter but he said it would only be for a short while because he wants the picket to stop.’
• Second news story
BOMB AL JAZEERA URGED BUSH
US PRESIDENT George Bush planned to bomb the Doha headquarters of Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera, British newspaper the Daily Mirror has reported.
Unnamed sources are quoted as saying a Downing Street memo marked ‘top secret’ contained the transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Blair in the White House on April 16 2004, at the height of the US bombardment of Fallujah.
The five-page transcript apparently reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching an air strike on the station.
Former Labour Defence Minister Peter Kilfoyle has challenged Downing Street to publish the transcript.
He said: ‘It’s frightening to think that such a powerful man as Bush can propose such cavalier actions.
‘I hope the Prime Minister insists this memo be published. It gives an insight into the mindset of those who were the architects of war.’
One source is quoted as saying: ‘The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush.
‘He made clear he wanted to bomb Al Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.
‘There’s no doubt what Bush wanted to do – and no doubt Blair didn’t want him to do it.’
A civil servant has been charged under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking the memo.
Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is accused of passing the memo to Leo O’Connor, who formerly worked for former Labour MP Tony Clarke.
Both Keogh and O’Connor are scheduled to appear at London’s Bow Street Magistrates Court next week.
Clarke is reported to have returned the memo to Blair’s office.