The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 69/No. 38           October 3, 2005  
Airline caterers reach out in UK,
U.S. as they fight for reinstatement
(front page)
BRIGHTON, United Kingdom—Two hundred sacked Gate Gourmet workers teemed out of buses in this south coast town September 12, taking their fight to the annual meeting of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). With placards held high, the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) members surrounded the entrance hall chanting, “What do we want? Jobs back,” and “Redundancy no way! Compensation no way!”

“We are determined to fight for justice and I want my job back,” Umesh Dalal told the press.

On September 12-14, a delegation of two fired Gate Gourmet workers traveled to the United States and took part in solidarity rallies at U.S. airports in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Five weeks earlier Gate Gourmet, the main supplier of flight meals at British Airways (BA), sparked chaos at Heathrow Airport when BA bus drivers and baggage handlers struck for two days in solidarity. This followed the sacking of the 670 catering workers who maintain their daily protest picket, with 100 to 300 TGWU members occupying a small hill overlooking a major airport road.

The Gate Gourmet workers received a standing ovation at the TUC conference, an annual gathering of officials and shop steward delegates from all the UK unions. A unanimous resolution was carried by the conference supporting the TGWU workers and demanding that the Labour government repeal legislation that bans solidarity strikes.

Unions and individuals in the UK and abroad have sent hundreds of solidarity messages and donations. A sample display snaked around the walls of a solidarity event held September 11, including from Canada, Norway, and Australia. Ole Donbaek Jensen from the shop stewards board at Copenhagen, Denmark, airport, wrote, “We face similar problems at Copenhagen airport. We will continue to deny any return catering due to the conflict.”

Around 300 of the sacked workers and 400 of the 1,400 workers still employed by Gate Gourmet have applied for voluntary redundancy under an agreement brokered by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. Gate Gourmet bosses, however, continue to refuse to take back those they deem union “troublemakers.” They have also said they expect BA to fund the costs of the redundancy package, which the airline bosses have refused to do.

Solidarity messages for the Gate Gourmet workers can be sent to TGWU, Transport House, Uxbridge Road, Hillingdon UB10 0LY, United Kingdom. Fax 0208 569 2292. e-mail:


Two fired London Heathrow Gate Gourmet workers and a TGWU representative participated in solidarity rallies in mid-September with Teamster and UNITE HERE union members employed by Gate Gourmet at airports in the United States. Some 100 workers participated in a rally in Chicago September 12 and 50 in San Francisco September 13, according to UNITE HERE spokesperson Blake Harwell. A protest also took place in Los Angeles the following day. The rallies demanded reinstatement of all fired Gate Gourmet workers at Heathrow.

The Teamsters and UNITE HERE represent some 6,000 workers at Gate Gourmet kitchens in the United States and the TGWU represents about 3,000 in London. The U.S. unionists are currently in negotiations with Gate Gourmet, where they have worked under the old contract since 2004.
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