Gate Gourmet dispute continues

Although it's dropped out of the headlines, the Gate Gourmet dispute is still very much going on.

Workers are still picketing daily on Beacon Hill, Gate Gourmet workers called a press conference today, the details of which follow below.

As yet no redundancy money has been paid out to any of the sacked staff, and there will be a lot of conditions attached to the redundancy payouts when they're eventually made. Many of these haven't been made public, but one condition is that workers will not be allowed to work for Gate Gourmet or any other subsidiary of Texas Pacific Group ever again. TPG has a vast number of subsidiaries, including well-known brands like Ryanair, Debenhams and Punch Taverns, so it will drastically reduce their chances of finding another job.

Gate Gourmet workers published the following press release:

Tues 25 Oct from 12 to 3pm, Lobby of 10 Downing Street. Nearest tube: Westminster
PRESS RELEASE
WE WOMEN STRIKERS AT GATE GOURMET SPEAK OUT
& CALL LOBBY OF DOWNING STREET, Tues 25 Oct
Press Conference: 11am, Crossroads Women’s Centre
230a Kentish Town Rd, London NW5. Entrance in Caversham Rd.
Tel: 020 7482 2496

Lobby of 10 Downing Street: 12-3pm. Nearest tube: Westminster

We women workers are calling a press conference to confirm THE DISPUTE IS NOT OVER. We and other workers are still on the picket line, and urgently need support. At the end of September our union the TGWU struck a deal with Gate Gourmet management, according to which 144 of us were forcibly made redundant and 7 were to be sacked with no compensation. We were not informed who would be made redundant or sacked. On 21 and 22 October, after news of our Downing Street demonstration and press conference had been reported, 144 people finally received letters, offering them a compulsory redundancy package and giving them only three working days to appeal. Gate Gourmet has stated that no one will be offered their job back until these 144 workers accept redundancy on these terms, and Gate Gourmet added that: “‘It is the responsibility of the union to get them to agree. Nothing can happen until then.”

Most of us are Asian women; many are mothers and grandmothers who have worked for the company for years. Our wages are on average between £6.00 and £7.00 an hour. Gate Gourmet is a multi-national, the world’s biggest airline food provider. Management wanted us to accept redundancies and lower starting pay, while their salaries have been raised by up to 30%. We had been struggling to regularise those of us employed on a temporary basis. In January 2005, management wanted to make 670 people redundant because they were “surplus”, and negotiations had been going on between our union, the TGWU, and the management.

On 10 August agency workers arrived, and when we gathered to discuss it with our shop stewards, management said we had five minutes to get back to work. After that they threw dismissal letters on the tables, already translated into five languages! They called in about 200 security guards accompanied by armed police with dogs. We were told to hand in our ID cards and locker keys, but we insisted to see our union representatives. We were locked in and held for six hours, not allowed to see our union officials who were in the car park, not allowed food, water or access to the toilet. Then we were circled by security guards, who grabbed some of us and dragged us out. Women workers have prepared a statement about the brutal and humiliating treatment we suffered the day the dispute began.

We all want justice and to save our jobs. We are keeping the picket alive because while the press reports a deal has been agreed, most workers do not yet know who is to be offered their jobs back. who will face compulsory redundancy, and who will be simply sacked. We are worried the company has been deliberately delaying because after 9 November we will no longer be entitled to take them to Industrial Tribunal.

Those on strike only receive £50 a week from the TGWU and this is not enough for us to survive on. Funds sent to the union for the dispute have not been distributed to the workers.

For more information tel: 020 7267 0923 or 020 7482 2496.

The press conference is supported by: Asian Women Unite, Hillingdon Women’s Centre, Legal Action for Women, South Asia Solidarity Group, Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike.
Asian Women’s Network (Hounslow) and Asian Women’s Counselling Service (Hounslow and Ealing) have pledged support.

The picket continues on Beacon Hill outside Terminal 4 perimeter fence. Nearest Tube: Hatton Cross, 7am to 7pm Daily.