'WE WERE right to stand and fight. I have no doubts about that. People stood together and that makes me proud.' They were the words of one of the sacked Sky Chefs workers who last week decided to end their brave 14 month fight. The 270 catering workers at Heathrow Airport were sacked by air giant Lufthansa simply for taking part in a legal one day strike against huge attacks on their pay and conditions.
Their courage and determination have forced the bosses of Lufthansa to agree to re - employ the 100 sacked workers who have not found other work and are still picketing the company's plant near Heathrow. The company says it will re - employ 25 of them soon, and will pay the other 75 from a hardship fund whilst they wait for jobs to become available. There will also be compensation for the other 200 workers depending on their length of service. It is clear the determined campaign by the workers had rattled Lufthansa. The details of the settlement are still to be finalised. But Lufthansa says it will devote £2 million to bringing the dispute to an end. There was much confusion last week amongst the workers about precisely how that money would be distributed.
Lufthansa bosses knew that workers were to begin industrial tribunals later this month, so they gave the workers a deadline of 1 February to accept or reject the offer. A mass meeting last week agreed to accept the offer, which was recommended by the TGWU. But most workers were not happy with it. 'Sickening' and 'disgusting' were words used to describe the package. 'I am really angry and disappointed,' said Suminda Sandu. 'I've been on the picket line every day. But I feel like the union has played a disgusting game with us, telling us we had not got a legal case for the industrial tribunals and that we had to take this.'
If a 14 month fight can force Lufthansa to back off this much, think what solidarity action by TGWU members across Heathrow would have achieved. It could have quickly won ALL the workers their jobs back and boosted trade unionists' morale everywhere. Yet TGWU leader Bill Morris would not call such action for fear of the anti - union laws. But Sky Chefs workers know that their resilience got results. 'I feel a mixture of things,' said another striker last week. It is sad that things have ended this way but I am really proud of everybody. I feel like we made history a little bit by sticking together. We kept them worried because we did not give up.'