Socialist Worker

Gate Gourmet staff continue their fight

Issue No. 1982

The sacked Gate Gourmet workers are continuing their battle for reinstatement. They picketed and campaigned over the holidays, despite the bosses’ insistence that they sign compromise agreements by the end of the year.

Eric Born, managing director of Gate Gourmet UK and Ireland, said just before Christmas that 300 of the original 700 workers had signed agreements ruling out claims for unfair dismissal, and had accepted compensation equivalent to voluntary redundancy payments.

About 200 are to be re?engaged. But that leaves 200 who have refused to sign. They are angry that their union leaders agreed a deal that expected them to accept compulsory redundancy and to sign away all their rights to take legal action against the company in exchange for a paltry payoff.

They also had to pledge that they would never seek work at Gate Gourmet or “any of its associated companies” — which many believe covers the whole airport.

Financial journalists are speculating that Gate Gourmet is to see a change of ownership.

In return for cancelling Gate Gourmet debt, a group of “distressed debt specialists” — usually known as “vulture funds” — will get 45 percent of the company, which defaulted on its debt over a year ago. This could rise to 65 percent, depending on performance.

Present owner Texas Pacific Group will retain 35 percent.

Union leaders must renew the battle to win reinstatement for all the workers, and for the contract to be taken back by British Airways (BA).

Pressure on the T&G union has ensured that hardship payments, which had been under threat, are continuing. But more support is needed.

Meanwhile BA has sacked T&G union rep Mark Fisher, one of the three workers disciplined for allegedly organising strikes at Heathrow airport in solidarity with Gate Gourmet workers last summer.

He was found guilty of “gross misconduct for playing a leading role in the walkout”, the airline said.

A second worker, Iggy Vaid, was found guilty of gross misconduct, given a final written warning, and suspended without pay for one month.

Another union rep, Pat Breslin, is still waiting for the results of his hearing.

Tony Woodley, the T&G general secretary, said, “The T&G is surprised and disappointed at these decisions. We believe that there is no basis for serious disciplinary sanctions — let alone sackings — against our shop stewards.

“We will fully exhaust the appeals process in line with British Airways procedure. We remain fully committed to supporting our shop stewards at Heathrow and will review all our options after the conclusion of the third disciplinary hearing now pending, and appeals procedure.”

The T&G must not allow BA to sack key union reps at will.

Send donations for the sacked Gate Gourmet workers’ campaign, payable to Gate Gourmet dispute fund club, c/o 20 Pennine Way, Hayes, UB3 5LL

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Sat 7 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1982
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