Gate Gourmet provoked confrontation to justify sackings
documents from Gate Gourmet management show that last
year they discussed how to provoke mass unofficial strike by workers at Heathrow
in order to legally sack workers without compensation and hire new workers (to
be recruited in Poland) at reduced conditions.
A secret internal briefing presented to bosses at British
Airways' catering company Gate Gourmet, owned by American
venture capitalists Texas Pacific, reads:
"Recruit, train and security check drivers.
"Announce intention to trade union, provoking
unofficial industrial action from staff. Dismiss current workforce. Replace with
The document then sets out a 15-week timetable for goading
employees into striking so they could be replaced with lower-paid Eastern
European labour trained in secret. A spokesman for Gate Gourmet admitted that
the plan had been floated. However, he insisted it was never actually
implemented. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Like clockwork the plan was put into operation and did indeed
lead to the work force of hundreds of workers to walk out on unofficial action.
Then, brilliantly more than 1,000 BA workers at Heathrow walked out in sympathy
for those they work alongside of, making Gate Gourmet's plan to walk over their
workers far harder than they had anticipated.
TGWU shop steward, Sarijit Singh, told the Mirror, who broke the story, that
"We've always believed the actions were pre-planned. Now we are in no doubt...
The lengths they've gone to are truly shocking."
Union negotiator S Dhillon
speaking at a rally encouraged the angry workers to return to a picket line
outside Gate Gourmet’s offices. “Treat us with respect and dignity - that is
what we ask for and it doesn’t cost anything,” he said, prompting more cheers.
11 Aug 2005
To all Heathrow Airport customers
From the workers at Gate Gourmet
We would like to explain to you why
your journey today will be less comfortable than it should be. We are the
workers who provide your in-flight meals. We are employed by Gate Gourmet, an
international company whose chief client in the UK is British Airways.
On Wednesday, August 10th, 2005,
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.
As catering assistants we are paid
just £12,000 a year. As drivers we are paid less than £16,000 per year.
These are very low wages by any
standards, but especially in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Yet
Gate Gourmet is seeking to push them even lower, and us even closer to poverty.
At the same time, the management
team has awarded themselves hefty pay rises. We are therefore picketing today to
draw attention to this harsh, shameless mistreatment of a loyal and hard-working
workforce by a company which has no respect for labour relations or for basic
Our trade union, the Transport &
General Workers' Union, has been working for months with the management of Gate
Gourmet to try to stabilise the financial circumstances of the company.
Despite this terrible treatment, we
want our jobs back. We want decent treatment at work. And no disruption to your
Please support us in our fight to
get our jobs back. Please tell Gate Gourmet and British Airways to re-employ the
sacked workers and sit down with the T&G to resolve the dispute.
Thank you for your support
The workers of Gate Gourmet
tough negotiations are happening," said a TGWU spokesman. "The biggest sticking
point between the two parties is whether the 670 sacked workers can be
reinstated." Gate Gourmet has already filled its factory with Polish labourers,
recruited in exactly the manner laid out in the documents leaked to the Mirror.
Despite these revelations Labour MP Barry Sheerman, chairman of
the Commons Education Select Committee, attacked the work force
and said a "malign influence" was at work in the airport, unfortunately he did
not mean the Gate Gourmet bosses.
It is "no
accident" the rows flare up in August as "they are pre-planned and plotted",
according to the Huddersfield MP.
"There is some
malign influence at Heathrow that is putting these things on in August," Mr
"There is no doubt
about it, we have a leadership out of control at Heathrow, the T&G particularly
has no backbone. It is spineless union leadership."
resign for this disgusting attack on a work force already under massive pressure
- and if he wont resign he should be sacked... you can email
him direct at
or his constituency office at
OSULLIVANG@parliament.uk if you have anything to say to him on this
There is no doubt that it is the action by Gate Gourmet and BA
workers combined that have brought this repulsive situation to international
attention and have given the company cause to worry about their wage slashing
agenda. They should be congratulated and supported for their stand against union
bashing, and any victory that they can win is a victory for workers everywhere.
The following message of support to the sacked workers is a good template for
others to use...
MESSAGE OF SUPPORT
FOR THE GATE GOURMET STRIKERS AT HEATHROW.
I am writing to you
from the Camden UNISON Housing Stewards committee to show you our support and
solidarity in your fight for reinstatement to your jobs with no attacks on your
terms and conditions.
We are disgusted
with the company and their managers for the sackings and for the way they sacked
you (by megaphone!) as well as hiring cheaper labour to do your jobs.
We congratulate all
the baggage handlers who walked out in solidarity with your strike who made the
attention of the national media focus on your important dispute.
We are doing
collections around our different workplaces for your strike fund, and we will be
bringing those collections to your picket lines.
We hope you win
your dispute quickly as you deserve to have a quick victory to this serious
attack from the management of Gate Gourmet.
As the UNISON
Deputy Regional Convenor for Greater London I will personally try and get this
raised at the regional level for solidarity.
support can be sent to
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com