WHILE TUC conference was in session on Monday several hundred Gate Gourmet workers staged a rally outside the conference hall. Most of them are members of west London’s Asian community that supplies a large proportion of all the workers at Heathrow.
They held up banners and chanted “we want our jobs back” as they were met by Tony Woodley.
He told them: “Five weeks ago you were unfairly sacked by a ruthless, union-busting employer, but I can assure you that the battle goes on,” Woodley told the crowd.
The American-owned company claims it is losing money and desperately needs to cut costs.
The demonstrating workers won a standing ovation from conference delegates as they entered the conference hall.
Tony Woodley described Texas Pacific, owner of the catering company, as “a renegade venture capitalist company headed by American union-busting bosses”.
He accused the company of “plotting for a year to sack low paid workers” while “secretly recruiting agency labour on still lower rates on the orders of a cowboy capitalist from Texas”.
One of the workers, Umesh Dalal told the crowd outside the conference hall of how he had been sitting in the staff canteen last month when managers told workers they had been dismissed. He said: “I was on my tea break at the time so I was really shocked. We are determined to fight for justice and I want my job back.”
TGWU negotiations with Gate Gourmet have produced an offer to reinstate most workers but the company is still refusing to take back workers it described as “trouble makers”.
The workers are receiving solidarity support from unions in America, representing the workforce of Texas Pacific there.
Some Gate Gourmet workers have travelled to American to take part in rallies in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The rallies are demanding the reinstatement of all the sacked workers and are being organised jointly by the Teamsters, Unite Here and the TGWU.
Across the Atlantic, Gate Gourmet has been seeking unreasonably severe concessions from its US employees. The unions have fought the demands, most recently compelling the company to reinstate health coverage that it had unilaterally revoked.
Jim Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, said, “We’re inspired by our London brothers and sisters’ determination to fight Gate Gourmet’s outrageous anti-worker behaviour. Labour unions are here to protect workers from unfair employer tactics like those of Gate Gourmet.”