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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Gate Gourmet brutally sacks 800 workers at Heathrow Airport

Posted to the IUF website 12-Aug-2005

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On Wednesday, August 10, some 800 workers were sacked by the airline caterer Gate Gourmet in an extraordinary show of corporate bullying against a union and against a workforce which the company have said they "cannot work with".

The Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) has been in negotiations with Gate Gourmet since February over measures to deal with a massive projected operating loss at Heathrow. A rescue package was put forward in June, but when it became clear that management was excluded from the cost-cutting measures, the workforce rejected the package. The T&G continued trying to find a way with the company and with other parties to reach a solution.

In August, Gate Gourmet announced their intention to hire 120 temporary workers - while permanent staff continued to work under the threat of being made redundant. The company ignored calls for discussions and brought in the temporary workers on Wednesday. While union representatives talked to management, staff assembled in the canteen in preparation for a meeting were told to return to work or they would be sacked. Those reporting to work for a later shift were told they had been sacked. Workers on sick leave and holiday were informed by letter that they had been sacked.

The IUF and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) have informed affiliates organising workers in airline catering of this crisis situation. Offers of support have been received from unions in the United States, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, France, Turkey and Australia. Gate Gourmet operations at Heathrow have come to a standstill and the company is looking for alternative ways to provide meals. One of these is back catering, the delivery of meals for return flights.

IUF and ITF have alerted affiliates and asked that active support be provided to avert this practice, wherever possible. At some airports, other catering companies have been approached to provide meals for Gate Gourmet's contracts. LSG Sky Chefs workers in Norway and Denmark have refused to load meals onto aircraft bound for London-Heathrow otherwise serviced by Gate Gourmet.

The T&G is seeking the immediate reinstatement of the sacked workers and calling for immediate constructive dialogue with management. The IUF and its affiliates stand in solidarity with the Heathrow Gate Gourmet workers and the T&G and condemn the heavy-handed tactics used against the workforce and their union in a spiteful attempt to crush opposition.

It is highly likely that the IUF and ITF will be initiating further international action against the company in the coming days.