‘WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO PICKET’ – now TGWU must make the strike official

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GATE Gourmet strikers, at Heathrow, were jubilant yesterday after the High Court verdict that they had the right to picket the company which sacked them 12 days ago.

Mr Justice Fulford decided that the picket outside the factory should be reduced from ten to six pickets, but refused to disperse the daily 200-plus strong demonstrations on the roundabout.

He said: ‘The rights to peaceful assembly have a long and important history in our democratic system and a court will be slow to stop any of those who seek within the law to express their opposition to action that has some effect on their lives from doing so.’

Paul Baulch, the Transport and General Workers’ Union spokesman, described the verdict as ‘a brilliant victory’.

When asked by News Line if the union would now declare the dispute official, he replied: ‘I honestly don’t know.’

Gate Gourmet pickets denounced reports in yesterday’s newspapers that the company would go into administration if it failed to secure a revised contract with British Airways by Tuesday evening.

This afternoon, a mass meeting of strikers and the local community is being held in nearby Southall and is to be addressed by Transport and General Workers’ Union General Secretary Tony Woodley.

Pickets spoke to News Line over the weekend.

After yesterday’s verdict, Parminder Thapar told News Line: ‘It’s a great victory.

‘Gate Gourmet is not going to win. No way.

‘Now the union must make the dispute official.

‘I am the only breadwinner in our home.

‘I have a mortgage, a wife and two children and I need my job back or I can’t survive.

‘I am a lorry driver. How can I work for £6.00 an hour?

‘They want to cut our wages to under £6.

‘We have been doing six long-haul flights and they’re telling us to do ten flights, and to cut our lunch break.

‘They sacked us for doing nothing wrong.

‘We have to win.

‘We were grateful for the help from BA workers and we may need them to help again.

‘We may need help from everyone.

‘The company said we were sacked for going on strike but we never went on strike.

‘They took us out from the gate.

‘They wouldn’t let us in.

‘They sacked people on sick and on holidays.

‘They even sacked one man who had a heart appointment the next week.

‘They sacked a heart patient.

‘Because of this management, everyone is suffering.

‘Now they are threatening to go into administration. They should be nationalised and we should get our jobs back.’

Kumar said: ‘We are here to protect our jobs. Today’s ruling shows that we have got every right.

‘Everyone must get their jobs back with no victimisations.’

Mr Paul, another picket, said: ‘We are very happy we have won the first hurdle.

‘The company wanted to ban us but they failed.

‘The company is using many tactics to try to stop us demonstrating here, but they are not showing their strength, they are showing their weakness.

‘We are very heartened by today’s victory and are confident of going forward to complete victory.’

Sacked worker and TGWU rep, Mr Sandhu, addressing the strikers on the grass bank at the roundabout, said: ‘Congratulations on today.

‘The company is making an appeal tomorrow, but we are here to stay.’

He then told News Line: ‘It’s us who are the victims.

‘We have been treated despicably.

‘Gate Gourmet have money to spend, probably hundreds of thousands of pounds, to go to the High Court and now to the Appeal Court.’

He continued: ‘What they’ve done to us is political.

‘They want to take away our democratic right to protest.

‘They want to break the union.

‘But they’ll never do it as long as we live.’

The TGWU spokesman, Paul Baulch added: ‘This is a brilliant victory for us all, for the working class and the trade union movement.

‘Monday’s meeting is to be addressed by Tony Woodley and all are welcome, the whole community. It’s going to be broadcast on the local radio.’

Today’s meeting is at the temple on Havelock Road, Southall at 2.00pm.

• Second News story

GADDAFI’S SON URGES EMIGRE’S TO RETURN HOME

Following Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi’s invitation to US President George W Bush to visit his country, Gadaffi’s son Seif al-Islam said any possible past human rights violations in his country should be investigated.

Past injustices would be compensated, said Seif al-Islam and called on Libyans living abroad to return home.

Speaking in his capacity as president of the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations, he added that there was now a different reality and a different future in his country.

The time was ripe to reopen the files to investigate any possible human rights violations.

Such a move was not unprecedented, he said.

‘There was something like this in South Africa and Latin American countries.

‘If anyone lost his life unjustly or was harmed as a result of human rights violations in the past, why are their cases not looked into and why does no reconciliation take place?’ he asked.

He also called on dissident Libyans living abroad, whose money and property had been confiscated, to return home and restore their rights, and become re-integrated into society.

He said his foundation was trying to contact Libyans abroad.