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Heathrow workers fight pay and job cuts
WORKERS AT Gate Gourmet - a catering company at Heathrow which works for various international airlines - have decisively rejected a company plan which would lead to huge job cuts and worsening of conditions.
The workers, members of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) voted against their own union's recommendation and rejected the proposals by 1,305 votes to 88 for (with 61 votes void). The plan is allegedly designed to remove a £40 million operating loss the company is making - although the company is currently paying out over £11 million in overtime to some workers, according to sources at the company.
A similar plan put to unions working for the parent company in the USA was also rejected by unions there.
Some of the proposals include:
- 675 redundancies (so far the proposal is for them to be voluntary) out of 2,500 - 3,000 workers.
- Wage cuts by moving from 26 grades of pay to five new grades. Of the 26 existing grades, 22 will become a general hand grade and four will have other grades.
- Existing staff will maintain their current wage differentials but from now on all overtime for the new general hand grade (regardless of current differentials) will be paid as a percentage of the starter's rate - £6 an hour - rather than the current hourly rate. This could mean someone could work overtime on a lower rate than their current hourly rate.
- A move from 25 days paid sick leave in any one year to five in any year.
- Changes to working hours to mean that time allowed for changing into uniform at the start and end of shift will now be done in the worker's own time.
- Changes to pension entitlement and other working conditions - including cutting back choice in the staff canteen and increasing prices.
The workers were given 90-day HR1 redundancy notices on 8 March which expired on 9 June. The company has given the union four months' notice that they will change terms and conditions which expires on 19 August.
There has been unease, however, at the way that some TGWU officers have been handling the issue, recommending acceptance of the company plan which would cut wages, term and conditions of the workers.
A number of stewards at the company have opposed the company plans and the way the union has responded to them, complaining about lack of information and proper consultation.
This has led to three stewards, out of 33 at the company, being put on gardening leave - where the company pays them to stay at home - and being excluded from doing their union duties.
They have a petition against this signed by about 100 of their members and have sent it to TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley and TGWU national official Brendan Gold.
The stewards were told by management at one stage that, although they were on gardening leave, they could attend union meetings on site if the union agrees.
They have, however, turned up to a few meetings, including once to cast their ballot on the company plan, but were held by security while another shop steward was sent to the security hut by union officials with three ballot papers for them to cast their votes, which they refused to do because they wanted to cast them alongside everyone else.
They have also tried to stand outside the gate at change of shift to communicate with members but were given letters from management warning them not to attend any Gate Gourmet site or organise meetings, even outside the workplace.
The stewards have gone to TGWU central offices to demand that they are treated properly as stewards and hope to take the issue up with TGWU officials at the union's conference.
In The Socialist 7 July 2005: