The Gate Gourmet dispute ended last week after workers voted at a mass meeting to accept a deal brokered by their T&G union.
It means that around a third of the original 670 workers who were sacked will return to work now. Another 210 will either come back in the near future or take the option of voluntary redundancy.
Some 144 workers will be made compulsorily redundant and seven workers who have refused to accept redundancy but whom the company refuses to have back will be found jobs by the T&G.
The fact that some workers are going back is a tribute to the magnificent fight put up by the Gate Gourmet workers and, in particular, the solidarity they received from other workers at Heathrow.
Because they fought, Gate Gourmet workers stood in the way of the smooth process of union-busting that Gate Gourmet planned for.
One T&G member at Gate Gourmet told Socialist Worker, “We are proud of what we have done and we know we were right to stand against these vicious managers.
“I only wish we could have completely beaten them. Other groups of workers will have to fight now at Heathrow and they must get full support from all the unions.”
The walkouts at Heathrow meant that the case made headlines across the world, shaming Gate Gourmet bosses and exposing the reality of Blair’s Britain.
Another sacked worker said, “About half of us will return and the union still exists.
“That is because our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the airport were prepared to put their own jobs on the line for us. We thank them, and all the people who supported us. Our case has reminded everyone how unfair the anti-union laws are, and how companies can bring in agency staff but workers’ solidarity is outlawed.”
But the deal can hardly be greeted as a victory.
Many workers have been forced to look for other jobs, and a group of staunch trade unionists has been driven out.
The sacked Gate Gourmet workers deserved wider solidarity from the union leaders and encouragement for action in their support.
Now we need 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 stronger rank and file organisation for the battles to come at Heathrow and elsewhere
For more on Heathrow see Unions face Heathrow battle