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Antrim - Event Notice
Thursday August 30 2007

Sacked Airport Workers Victory

category antrim | worker & community struggles and protests | event notice author Monday August 27, 2007 16:11author by Socialist Party - Socialist Party Report this post to the editors

Hear Their Story

PUBLIC MEETING
Sacked Airport Workers Victory - Hear Their Story
8pm Thursday 30th August
Socialist Party Offices 13 Lombard St, Belfast

PRESS RELEASE 21ST AUGUST 2007

23 Sacked airport workers win landmark Industrial Tribunal case

· Security firm ICTS ordered to pay £750,000 damages.

· Tribunal finds that the 23 workers were unfairly dismissed

· Tribunal also finds that four shop stewards were victimised and sacked because of their socialist political beliefs.

· Shop stewards claim this as a “victory for all trade unionists”.

· Shop stewards to launch a hunger strike at the headquarters of the T&GWU/Unite in London on Thursday demanding an inquiry into why the union repudiated their strike and failed to support their legal case.

Five years after they were sacked by their employer, security firm ICTS, for taking strike action over pay, the 23 sacked airport workers have won their Industrial Tribunal case.

The Tribunal unanimously found that ICTS unfairly dismissed the 23 workers.

The Tribunal also found that the four shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta, Chris Bowyer (T&GWU) and Malcolm Spencer (GMWU) were “unlawfully discriminated against” on the grounds of their socialist political beliefs.

In total the compensation awards amount to £750,000.

Gordon McNeill today said the Tribunal decision “totally vindicated the stand we have taken over the past five years.

“This is a victory not just for us but for all trade unionists. Our case sets two important legal precedents which strengthen the hand of all trade unionists and put a serious dent in the Thatcherite anti union laws.

“The Tribunal decisions in our case now establish that shop stewards can legally resume suspended strikes with no legal requirement to give any notice to employers and that any shop steward who is victimised or sacked can claim political discrimination, rather than just unfair dismissal.

“ICTS have not only been found guilty of discrimination, the senior directors of this company were found to have lied in court. The question now to be asked is how can a company whose directors lie in court be allowed to remain in charge of people’s security at Belfast or any other airport?

“Having won a victory over ICTS we are now turning our attention to our union. The T&GWU was complicit in having us sacked as, behind our backs, they repudiated our strike. They have failed to give us legal backing, telling us we had no legal case.

“They are not even prepared to acknowledge or answer letters we have written asking for discussions to resolve our differences.

“Because of this the three T&GWU shop stewards, Madan Gupta, Chris Bowyer and myself are going to London on Thursday to begin a hunger strike in the T&GWU/Unite offices.

“We will stay on hunger strike until the union leadership meet our demands for a full inquiry into their (mis)handling of our dispute and until they agree to meet the legal bill and other costs we have incurred because they refused to back us in this struggle”

PRESS RELEASE

Embargoed until midnight 22nd August 2007

STOP PRESS
Sacked shop stewards to commence hunger strike in Transport House in London from 2.00pm on Thursday 23 August demanding justice from the T&GWU/Unite

Shop stewards to start a hunger strike in Transport House in London (Transport House, 128 Theobald's Road, Holborn, London WC1X 8TN) unless the T&GWU meet their demands for an inquiry and meet their legal and other costs.

The Facts:

Five years after they were sacked by their employer, security firm ICTS, for taking strike action over pay, the 22 sacked airport workers have won their Industrial Tribunal case.

The Tribunal unanimously found that ICTS unfairly dismissed the 22 workers.

The Tribunal also found that the four shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta, Chris Bowyer (T&GWU) and Malcolm Spencer (GMWU) were “unlawfully discriminated against” on the grounds of their socialist political beliefs.

This follows an earlier High Court judgement, ratified in the Court of Appeal
(Jan 2006) that the strike action was legal.

In total the compensation awards amount to £750,000.

Although the 14 May 2002 strike was balloted for and had been sanctioned by the T&GWU, one day later a T&GWU official met secretly in a public house close to the airport with ICTS directors and gave them letters repudiating the strike.

The workers received no assistance from the T&GWU with their legal case against ICTS. They were forced to re-mortgage their houses to meet legal costs and now have a legal bill of £200,000 as well as massive personal debts.

The shop stewards are demanding that the union launch an inquiry into the way they handled this dispute and meet the full legal and campaigning costs that the workers have incurred over the past five years.

Sacked shop steward Gordon McNeill today commented:

“We were low paid workers who went on strike for a pound an hour increase to bring us up to the same rate as the airport porters. We were victimised and sacked by ICTS and have been forced to fight a five year battle without assistance from our union to get some measure of justice.

“We are proud that the judgement we have won – that we were sacked for our socialist political beliefs – is a victory not just for us, but for all trade unionists. It allows trade union members who are victimised and sacked to claim political discrimination, not just unfair dismissal.

“This together with the earlier Court of Appeal judgement that workers can reactivate suspended strikes without giving employers any prior notice strengthens the hand of the trade unions in future disputes.

“As soon as our Industrial Tribunal case ended in June we wrote to our union asking for discussions to sort out our differences so that we could jointly celebrate and build on the victory we felt was coming.

“We received neither acknowledgement nor reply. That is why we decided to go to London to begin a hunger strike demanding that, now that we have proven our point, the union give us the backing they should have given us over the past five years.

“We are very pleased that General Secretary, Tony Woodley, has agreed to meet us on Thursday. If we get satisfaction from that meeting we will book flights home. If we do not we will immediately begin our hunger strike in Transport House.

“The new merged union is called “unite”. Our message to them is ‘live up to the name, unite behind the sacked airport workers.”

PRESS RELEASE

Sacked airport shop stewards “make progress” in London talks with Tony Woodley

The three sacked airport shop stewards, who won their Industrial Tribunal case against ICTS, have returned from London following discussions with T&GWU/Unite General Secretary, Tony Woodley.

Gordon McNeill explains what happened:

“We went to London prepared to go on hunger strike because of the failure of our union to back us financially or in any other way.

“However, General Secretary Tony Woodley offered to meet us as soon as we arrived to discuss how we could resolve the outstanding issues. We had a lengthy negotiation with Tony Woodley and other senior officials.

“The outcome of these discussions is that we have received a commitment that Tony Woodley will do his personal best to resolve the outstanding issues of difference. We are now hopeful that a way to do this will be agreed by the T&GWU Executive Committee in mid-September.

“We felt that we had no choice but to take Tony Woodley’s assurances at face value and give the union leadership another few weeks to sort things out. We remain vigilant but are hopeful that enough progress has been made to allow them to do so.

“We are now turning our attention to ICTS. Although the Tribunal found that the top directors of this company lied in court they are still responsible for the safety of every passenger who flies out of Belfast International airport.

“We want to take our demand for ICTS to be kicked out of the airport and for airport security to be brought into public hands to a meeting with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness. We don’t want excuses – the Assembly needs to act with urgency on this.”

author by Unite memberpublication date Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Will the new regional secretary of UNITE, Jimmy Kelly (SWP member) be attending the meeting to explain why he supported Tony Woodley and not the airport workers?

author by Also Unite memberpublication date Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:40author address Belfastauthor phone Report this post to the editors

I heard that it was Jimmy Kelly who got onto Woodley to say the union had to move on this. After all, Woodley has been there all along but Kelly has just arrived here in Belfast. He is already moving to rebuild the union movement after years of in-fighting in both the T&G and Amicus (now both in Unite).

I also heard that Kelly has been or is in the middle of being expelled from SWP for taking this job. This seems very unfair to me. He has been an (unpaid) shop steward for years from what I read and now that he is going to get paid for his union activity the SWP want to expel him? Surely he has a right to work at any job he wants to?

author by Unite memberpublication date Wed Aug 29, 2007 16:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I read this in the SPs paper about the airport workers, it seems to indicate that Kelly didn't support them.

Sacked shop steward and Socialist Party member, Gordon McNeill explained why: “When the Tribunal case ended we sent a letter on 12 June to T&GWU secretary, Tony Woodley and to every local official asking for discussions to try to resolve our differences. We hoped that, if we won the Tribunal, we could issue a joint press release with the union saying that this was an important victory for all trade unionists and, despite our past differences, we were jointly appealing to all workers to join and get active in the unions.

“It’s now eight weeks on and we have not even had the courtesy of an acknowledgement of this letter, never mind a reply. Because the union abandoned us, we had to employ our own legal team and now have a legal bill close to £300,000.

“In the last couple of weeks we have spoken to local union officials asking them to take up our case with Tony Woodley and see if we could arrange a meeting. Nothing has come of this.

“When I rang the new Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, he defended Tony Woodley saying he had ‘done nothing but good for us’. He also justified not replying to our June letter, saying; ‘ who would reply to a letter like that?’

“All this leaves us with no option but to take our protest to Tony Woodley in London.

author by News junkypublication date Fri Aug 31, 2007 17:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Any news on Jimmy Kelly being expelled?

 
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