SOLIDARITY News Bulletin August 18th 2005
Gate Gourmet Dispute
Discussion between the TGWU and Gate Gourmet management has broken down over their refusal to reinstate all staff. It looks as if the dispute will be protracted.
The Mirror managed to get hold of an internal company document which showed that the company had been planning to engineer a dispute in order to sack the workforce. They had even set up a subsidiary company to recruit another workforce.
TGWU General Secretary Tony Woodley has written an article in the Guardian about the dispute, in which he raises the need for the legalisation of solidarity action. Read it at:
As Woodley points out BA sold off its catering arm in 1997 and subsequently continued to demands cuts from the contractor.
BA is investigating whether or not there was ‘intimidation’ of staff make them join an unofficial walk-out and said that action may be taken against some staff. The T&G has responded by saying it will support strike action against any victimisation. Should BA take any action it would represent a conscious decision to escalate the dispute.
We will have a major article in the next issue of SOLIDARITY. Suffice it to say here that this dispute is an important one politically because it highlights the advantage given to employers by employment law in this country, and the reality of the lives of many workers under a contracting out culture. It presents a major challenge to the whole trade union movement, but especially to union organisation at Heathrow.
Facts about the Gate Gourmet dispute (from the TGWU)
• Talks have been ongoing with Gate Gourment for many months in order to improve the business. During this time the union, the T&G, has played an active role in meeting the business needs.
• In June this year a rescue package was put forward by the company. The T&G said that any restructuring proposals needed to be across the board and include management grades. The company then re-graded 147 shop-floor workers as managers only to make them redundant. The original management team put themselves on higher starting salaries than before and made it clear they would not be part of the restructuring.
• Following this provocative and callous action, when the rescue package was put to the workforce it was rejected by nine to one.
• Since then T&G officers have been trying to find a way forward with the company and other parties to reach a solution.
• With the threat of redundancies hanging over the workers' head, Gate Gourmet then announced that they wished to employ 120 additional temporary staff. Why were they seeking to make people redundant and when they were planning to employ new staff? We would be happy for them to employ new workers if they removed the threat of redundancy from the original workforce.
• Yesterday, August 10th, 2005, the company brought in new workers without discussion. While the union sought clarity on the situation, staff assembled in the canteen in preparation for a meeting. Management then told staff that they had three minutes to get back to work or they would be sacked. They refused and remained in the building. Members starting the late shift also refused to come into work having heard the news. Those assembled in the car park were sacked by megaphone.
• It is becoming increasingly clear that Gate Gourmet had planned this action for some time. Private security guards were put on the gates. Extra workers were bussed in to replace those sacked. Dismissal letters were sent to all staff whether they are on leave or sick. The company had drivers in place six months ago to cover for this event. They also informed companies they trade with the day before that there would be a dispute.
• This dispute has been engineered by the company. This is a premeditated dispute designed to provoke action by workers so that they can be sacked without their due redundancy pay.
• This is a concerted attack on the airport workforce and their trade unions.
• This is irresponsible US-style union bashing which has no place in UK industrial relations.
• Gate Gourmet's action is jeopardising our jobs, our communities and the businesses and livelihoods of many of our colleagues. It must be resisted.
A Hardship fund has been set up: send cheques (payable to TGWU with Gate Gourmet written on reverse) to:
Gate Gourmet Hardship Fund
c/o Mr E McDermott, Regional Secretary TGWU,
218 Green Lanes, London N4 2HB
Send messages of support to: firstname.lastname@example.org