‘EACH and every one of you are victims of a cynical sacking. It’s not just an issue for you, our members, it is – as Brendan Barber (TUC general secretary) said – an issue for the whole trade union movement,’ Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) General Secretary Tony Woodley told the Gate Gourmet strikers yesterday.
‘It is also an important question for our country and the government of our country,’ he continued.
‘Can a cynical employer be allowed to get away with provoking action to sack its workers and cuts its costs? I say no.’
Woodley was addressing a meeting of the locked out Gate Gourmet strikers at the Sikh Temple in Havelock Road, Southall, yesterday afternoon.
While half the strikers attended the meeting, the other half remained on the picket line at Heathrow Airport.
Six hundred and seventy Gate Gourmet workers were sacked on Wednesday August 10 after holding a meeting to discuss the introduction with no warning of 130 casual agency workers into their workplace.
The meeting yesterday was also addressed by Brendan Barber and attended by leading TGWU officials and local Labour MPs John McDonnell, Alan Keen and Ann Keen.
Woodley continued: ‘Is it true our pickets were acting in a violent way? No.
‘Is it true you have driven this company into administration? No.
‘They plan to go into administration in a few short days.
‘British Airways’ hands cannot be clean in all this.
‘They sold the company off and reduced its contract by £62 million.
‘We have no sympathy for Gate Gourmet, but BA have a responsibility here.
‘They should take the company back into their own ownership.’
Woodley concluded: ‘I cannot guarantee you total victory when we are dealing with capitalists like we are dealing with.
‘If you fight you don’t always win.
‘But if you don’t fight you never win.’
Strikers, after the meeting commented to News Line on Woodley’s speech.
Mr Kenth said: ‘Tony Woodley said it’s 50-50 for us to win.
‘But 50-50 is no good for us, we need 100 per cent.
‘We need all our jobs back on the old terms and conditions and no victimisations.’
Kanaljeet Singh said: ‘We need the support of BA workers and all airport workers.
‘Tony Woodley said he can’t guarantee total victory but it’s total victory we need.
‘We want all our jobs back, no victimisation, everyone reinstated unconditionally.
‘The whole airport must come out to win this.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber told the meeting: ‘I wanted to be here today to show the total support from the whole trade union movement for your union to achieve justice.
‘Your demands are not high.
‘You want to be returned with fair conditions.
‘That is what your union wants and that is what the TUC wants and we are supporting you 100 per cent.’
In press briefings before the meeting, Woodley said: ‘The whole country is up in arms over the cynical sacking of the Gate Gourmet workers.
‘We are dealing with a well thought-out plan and if they get away with it more people will become victims of these American venture capitalists.’
Before the meeting he was asked by News Line if the union would make the Gate Gourmet dispute official.
Woodley replied: ‘No. We cannot declare an unofficial dispute official.’
Woodley also said: ‘The allegations the company has made against our members are a diversion from the main issue.
‘Gate Gourmet should reach a compromise.
‘The problem can be solved without industrial action, without a dispute.
‘I want BA to buy back the company.’
Barber said before the meeting: ‘The eyes of the whole trade union movement and the whole country are on this dispute.’
After the meeting, Woodley said: ‘I want to see an honourable compromise.
‘They must do the honourable thing.
‘We can win this. If all else fails, we call on BA to take this company back and then eventually move it on to a responsible employer.
‘We have tens of thousands of members at British Airways and we want the classic compromise that suits everybody.’
• Second News story
‘PUNISH POLICE FOR MURDER’ SAYS DE MENEZES MOTHER
THE mother of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian man shot to death by police on a tube train at Stockwell, has demanded the officers responsible are ‘punished’ for his murder.
Before a vigil was held outside Downing Street yesterday evening, one month after her son’s killing, Maria de Menezes said the armed police had ‘ended not only my son’s life but mine as well’.
Meanwhile, two officials from the 27-year-old’s native country arrived in London to question investigators about what happened.
Details have emerged openly contradicting the original police claims that Jean Charles de Menezes was acting suspiciously, wearing a thick jacket, vaulting a ticket barrier and running from police.
Jean Charles was held down and shot eight times after sitting down in a carriage at Stockwell station.
The police revealed afterwards that they were carrying out a shoot-to-kill policy secretly drawn up as long ago as 2001.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said that the policy had been repeatedly reviewed and retained and that the police would continue with it.