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Workers worldwide back their Heathrow colleagues
12 August 2005
Trade unionists from around the world have responded to an ITF call for solidarity with the 800 sacked workers at airline catering company Gate Gourmet (See: Catering Workers Sacked at Heathrow)
Unite/H.E.R.E in the USA; Spanish union the UGT; 3F in Denmark; Unison in the UK; Parat in Norway; the Australian Services Union; Force Ouvriere in France; and Turkish union Hava Is have all offered support. Meanwhile the Transport & General Workers’ Union (TGWU), which represents Gate Gourmet personnel, has redoubled its calls to the company to negotiate a way out of the impasse - which has resulted in unofficial industrial action that is drastically affecting operations at Heathrow.
Ingo Marowsky, Secretary of the ITF’s Civil Aviation Section, explained: “Our call for solidarity yesterday generated an immediate response from trade unionists worldwide who feel that Gate Gourmet has used underhand tactics to rid itself of hundreds of staff just at the time that apparently sincere negotiations on staffing levels were under way.”
He concluded: “Like the TGWU, like our other affiliated unions – and, I’d guess, like British Airways - we call on Gate Gourmet to set aside these American imported union busting tactics and get this problem sorted. To fail to do so will just prolong the misery of the thousands of stranded travellers, the sacked workforce, and everyone who wants to see a vibrant, successful airline industry.”
Below is a briefing from the TGWU, whose press office can be contacted at +44 (0)20 7611 2500.
- Yesterday, Wednesday 10th August, Gate Gourmet sacked 800 workers employed at Heathrow. Fellow workers reporting for duty on Thursday 11th August 2005 were faced with the ultimatum of signing a new contract which would slash pay and conditions or face the sack.
- Gate Gourmet supplies British Airways with their in-flight meals. They are owned by Gate Gourmet International, and were bought by US-owned Texas Pacific in 2003.
- Our members work as catering assistants, earning around £12,000pa, and as drivers, earning just under £16,000pa.
- The T&G has been negotiating with Gate Gourmet for months to work towards stabilising the company’s finances. In June this year a rescue package was put forward by the company. However, the T&G representatives said that any restructuring proposals needed to be across the board and include management grades if the plans were to have any credibility. The company then re-graded 147 shop-floor workers as managers only to make them redundant. It was then made clear that managers in the new structure would be on higher starting salaries than before and would not be part of the restructuring.
- Following this pay rise for managers and sacking of 147 workers, the workforce rejected the company’s rescue package proposals by a margin of nine to one. The T&G have been trying to find a way forward with the company and other parties to reach a solution. It was agreed that mediation would take place between Gate Gourmet and the T&G.
- In August Gate Gourmet informed the T&G that they wished to employ 120 additional temporary staff. The T&G responded by asking why they wanted to make people redundant and employ new staff, as this sends a confusing message to our members. We therefore said we would be happy for them to employ new workers if they removed the threat of redundancy.
- Yesterday the company brought in new workers without discussion. T&G representatives went to seek a meeting with Gate Gourmet managers. Staff assembled in the canteen in preparation for a meeting. Whilst our reps were talking to management, staff were told they had three minutes to get back to work or they would be sacked. They refused and remained in the building. Members starting the late shift also refused to come into work having heard the news. Those assembled in the car park were sacked by megaphone.
The T&G believes that the company’s actions were provocative and premeditated. Gate Gourmet is using heavy-handed US-style union-busting tactics to make workers redundant, and those tactics are unacceptable to the T&G. The T&G is seeking the immediate reinstatement of the sacked workers, and is clear that this situation, brought about by Gate Gourmet’s management, will only be resolved by immediate constructive dialogue.
For more information contact ITF press officer, Sam Dawson.
Direct line: + 44 (0)20 7940 9260.
International Transport Workers' Federation - ITF:
ITF House, 49 - 60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7403 2733
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7375 7871
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