A deal to end the bitter dispute at catering firm Gate Gourmet was announced at the start of this week.
Full details of the proposed settlement — which had to be ratified by the company’s directors and the workers — were not available as Socialist Worker went to press. But the basic shape seemed to be:
- The sacked staff will be formally reinstated.
- About half of them will then be given voluntary redundancy packages or compensation and will leave.
- A small number, perhaps six or seven, of those Gate Gourmet regard as “trouble makers” have refused to be made redundant and will not be allowed back by the company. They will be found alternative employment by the T&G union.
This is not the smooth process of union-busting that Gate Gourmet planned for. Far from clearing the way for increased profits, the dispute has pushed Gate Gourmet closer to bankruptcy.
The courage, resilience and defiance of the sacked workers prevented the company from driving a steamroller over the union. Everyone of them should be proud of the stand they took.
And the walkouts at Heathrow won some concessions and meant that the case made headlines across the world, shaming Gate Gourmet bosses and exposing the reality of Blair’s Britain.
Under current laws workers can be sacked by megaphone and agency workers can be brought in on even lower wages to cover for strikers—yet solidarity is a crime.
The sacked Gate Gourmet workers have rightly become the heroes of the trade union movement and have forced the anti-union laws onto the agenda of political debate.
But the deal can hardly be greeted as a victory. Many workers have been forced to look for other jobs, and a group of stalwart trade unionists has been driven out.
The sacked Gate Gourmet workers needed and deserved, wider solidarity from the union leaders and encouragement for action in their support at Heathrow and elsewhere.
The best tribute to the Gate Gourmet struggle would be a real campaign against the anti-union laws, and a determination not to back off when constrained by these unjust laws in the future.
And we need much stronger rank and file organisation to prepare for the battles to come.
Rally in support of Gate Gourment workers and BA baggage handlers, Sunday 2 October, 1pm, Beacon Hill. Details may change depending on events this week. For information go to www.sackedbygategourmet.org.uk