Union pays ‘hush money’ over Gate Gourmet wildcat

Two T&G union shop stewards who were sacked by Gate Gourmet over the unofficial walkout at the airline caterers in August last year have reportedly been paid £600,000 to remain silent about union involvement.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on September 18, 2006

Mark Fisher and Pat Breslin were allegedly following union orders when they helped organise the wildcat strike – which if proved true would make the union open to legal action by employers to recover the £42 million losses caused by the action. The ‘hush money’ is being paid in exchange for a vow of silence – it is also believed the men could have opted to sue the union for negligence for encouraging the strike which cost them their jobs. Half of the money will go to Mr Breslin, while Mr Fisher will be paid £176,000 and get a £50,000 per year union job. £90,000 of the total sum is to come from compensation paid by BA for their sackings.

The strike began when Gate Gourmet (GG) – who provide most of the in-flight meals for British Airways – announced more than 650 staff would be sacked because BA had cut back on their catering contract. The decision also sparked unofficial walkouts by BA baggage handlers in solidarity with the GG staff. The dispute ‘ended in compromise’ when the union agreed improved redundancy terms with GG bosses, although workers did not get their jobs back. Later, speculation emerged that there was a plan to provoke an unofficial strike in order to sack the well-organised workforce and replace them with cheaper eastern European labour – and the price T&G are prepared to pay to hide their involvement would suggest they walked right into the trap.