‘WE MUST not allow the Gate Gourmet workers to be starved.
‘The whole trade union movement must rally round and provide the funds and make their struggle official and restore their hardship pay.’
That was the message from the All Trades Union Alliance National Secretary Dave Wiltshire to the locked out Gate Gourmet workers at their joint conference with the News Line, attended by nearly 400 trade unionists and youth in central London yesterday.
He said, to loud applause, that if TGWU General Secretary Tony Woodley does not immediately restore the locked out workers’ hardship pay, give official recognition and take action to win his members’ dispute, ‘then Woodley has to go’!
Wiltshire said: ‘We can’t underestimate the significance of Gate Gourmet for the struggle of the entire working class.’
He said that when Gate Gourmet sacked their workforce ‘via a megaphone. . , the response from the working class was immediate and decisive.
‘When the baggage handlers came out they really dealt a massive blow to the employers.
‘It was the leadership of the TGWU who worked overtime to make sure that solidarity action was called off.’
Wiltshire added: ‘It was the most despicable act ever when the trade union leaders this week announced they were cutting off the hardship pay and said the only money these workers could get is if they signed the “Compromise Agreement”.’
He added: ‘There is no law in the land which says the TGWU should withhold their hardship pay. That was a decision taken by Woodley on behalf of the employers.
‘It is an attempt to turn the TGWU into a company union.’
He said the capitalist class, faced with a worldwide economic crisis was seeking ‘an all-out war on the entire working class, from Royal Mail workers to hospital workers.
‘Today the issue in front of the working class is bringing down this Labour government and replacing it with a workers’ government.
‘The working class is determined, tenacious and will struggle and fight. The only thing that holds it back is its leadership.’
Wiltshire urged everyone to join the Gate Gourmet workers’ lobby of the TGWU Executive on Thursday, February 2.
He said that every member of the TGWU Executive must be asked: ‘Where do you stand on this issue of Gate Gourmet?
‘If they are with Woodley then they will have to go and we will have to build a new leadership to defeat the employers.’
Lakhvinder Saran, one of the locked out workers said: ‘We did not do anything. Management just locked us out.
‘Our union leaders said they would support us, but we have not seen them for months now.
‘We lobbied the T&G Executive and met many people who supported us and do not support Woodley.
And we are going to lobby them again this Thursday.
‘It is disgraceful that they stopped our hardship fund. With all your support we will win this dispute.’
Hillingdon Hospital strike leader Malkiat Bilku said: ‘At Hillingdon we had the same experience and the same hostility from our leadership. But we carried on and won.’
She said the present union leadership ‘are tied up with this Labour government and are frightened to challenge them.
‘But the membership can defeat them with the right kind of leadership.’
Parmjit Bains, another locked out Gate Gourmet worker said: ‘Our company sacked us in five minutes.
‘Our union leaders made the “Compromise Agreement” and gave it to us to read in 10 minutes.
‘What is the difference between company management and the union leaders?
‘They did not tell us what is in the deal. When we realised it put everything on the company’s side and nothing in the workers’ hands, we refused to sign.
‘Now they are telling us our cases are weak. Our leaders are weak!’
A resolution was passed unanimously which declared that ‘the dispute must be made official, official dispute pay must be paid, the hardship fund must be immediately reopened and used to alleviate hardship cases’.
There were international messages of support for the locked out workers from Gate Gourmet strikers in Germany and carworkers in the US.
Other speakers included locked out Gate Gourmet worker Harbinder Singh, Bill Rogers from Chingford ASLEF, CWU rep Billy Colvill and printer John Breen, sacked at Wapping.
l See tomorrow’s News Line for a full report