Sacked Gate Gourmet workers have forced the company to admit it cannot wash its hands of them, but their battle for reinstatement is far from over.
Gate Gourmet bosses agreed on Thursday of last week to write to all their employees, including the 667 workers they brutally sacked three weeks ago, to see who would be interested in taking redundancy.
Those letters were to arrive by the middle of this week and be returned to the TUC, with the results passed on to the company.
“It’s a small, but significant step forward,” said Gate Gourmet convenor Mr Dhillon on Sunday as hundreds of workers and supporters joined a “family day” on the picket line outside Heathrow’s Terminal Four.
“In agreeing to write to everyone the company is accepting it has a responsibility to the sacked workers,” he added. “That is a crack in the position up to now where Gate Gourmet had said we were sacked and that was the end of the matter.”
Gate Gourmet claimed that the move was a deal that in effect ended the dispute.
“But this is far from over,” said one woman worker. “It’s true quite a lot of people wanted redundancy before.
“About 200 applied a few weeks before we were sacked.
“The union got an offer of two weeks pay for every year worked and that is the amount now.
“But then the company withdrew the redundancy offer and the next thing we knew we were sacked.
“Some people will want to apply for redundancy again. But how many? What about those of us who want to go back? And what about the so-called troublemakers who company has said it won’t take back? Am I one of them?
“There’s an awful lot still outstanding and so this fight is very much going on.
“The support at Sunday’s picket line was excellent. We need more of it.”
Rod Finlayson, part of a delegation of T&G union members from Ford’s Dagenham plant in east London, was one of dozens of trade unionists who was there show support.
He brought a cheque for £1,000, a donation from the Dagenham T&G branch.
“It’s absolutely vital these workers win,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We’ve got to stop this kind of aggressive management here and now or it will spread.
“We are arranging with the Gate Gourmet stewards for them to come and do a bucket collection at Dagenham. There has to be maximum solidarity for their fight.”
Dave Sherry from the T&G housing associations branch in the west of Scotland says, “My branch has donated the maximum it can without a full meeting — £500.
“We’ll be putting in for more and are organising collections in about 80 workplaces. People know about the disgusting treatment the Gate Gourmet workers have suffered.
“The groundswell of support for them is immense. Housing workers are saying this is what the threat of outsourcing and privatisation leads to.
“The solidarity action by the BA workers at the start of this dispute has also elevated this
battle into a different league and we applaud that. It was the kind of action the bosses really fear and it showed how to win quickly.
“It has raised the whole issue of getting rid of the anti-union laws and it has exposed just how restricted workplace rights are under New Labour.
“Our general secretary, Tony Woodley, has written to every T&G branch calling for support for the Gate Gourmet workers. The solidarity is not limited to the T&G.
“Gate Gourmet, and the battle against union-busting at Rolls Royce, ought to be a rallying cry across the union movement.
“It should mark the beginning of seriously standing up to the employers and New Labour.”