our experiences at the hands of the brutal management of this
multinational corporation and their utter disregard for our basic
rights and dignity. We would also like to remind you that our struggle
continues, and we need your support.
Gate Gourmet is the world's largest supplier of in-flight meals and
operates in over 29 countries. Internationally, the company has been
making profits of £1.05bn and has assets of £15 billion. In Britain,
Asian women form the majority of the workforce, many of us - mothers
and grandmothers are the sole wage earners for our families. Our wages
are on average between £6.00 and £7.00 an hour. We had been struggling
for one year to get the positions of those of us who were employed on
a temporary basis regularised.
The management told us in January 2005 that they were planning to make
670 people redundant because they were surplus workers and
negotiations had been going on over this between our union, the TGWU,
and the management.
Despite the management's claims that they had surplus workers, on 9
August this year we were told that 130 agency workers were to be
employed from the next day onwards. When we came to work at 6am the
next morning, we found that the management people were all already
there (normally they come in at 9am). At 9 am agency workers were
brought to the wash- up department. We stopped working. Our shop
stewards were on that day involved in a negotiation meeting with
management, but those that were at work, and in some departments the
managers themselves, told us to go to the canteen for a meeting. When
we got there we were told by the management that we had five minutes
to go back to work otherwise we would be dismissed. We said we wanted
to speak to our union representatives. After five minutes the
management came and threw letters on to the tables at which we were
sitting. They were letters of dismissal already translated into five
languages Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati and English obviously they
had been prepared in advance.
At this point we realised that an estimated two hundred and fifty
security guards and armed police, including a van load with police
dogs had entered the premises. As soon as we were told that we were
dismissed, the doors of the canteen were locked and no one was
allowed to leave. We were told to surrender our ID cards and locker
keys but we refused and said we wanted to see our union officials.
However we were not allowed to meet these officials although we were
aware that they were in the car park outside. We were not allowed any
food or water or access to toilets for six hours. Some of us including
those who were pregnant and older women had no choice but to use a
bin from the canteen as a toilet.
At 2.30pm we were surrounded by police and security guards who stood
linking arms. Several of us were physically dragged out by security
guards leading to injuries. One of us, Ms Benti Bansal, was sitting at
a round table when she was pulled up by her shoulders by two security
guards. Her chair slipped from under her and she fell to the ground,
injuring her back and neck. She begged them to let her go but they
dragged her across the room. Later she went to hospital and was
prescribed medication. Two other women suffered panic attacks when
security guards tried to grab their ID cards and locker keys and an
ambulance had to be called, and one woman, Ms Rajpreet Dhaliwal, has
suffered long term damage and has had to have medical treatment as a
result of being prevented from using the toilet for so many hours.
Those of us who were on leave on 10 August received letters of
dismissal which were dropped through our doors by hand in the early
hours of the morning. One of us, who was on holiday at the time,
received a phone call from the management when she returned. They
asked whether she was on the side of the management or the union. She
replied that she did not know what it was all about but that she would
support her colleagues. A sacking letter was dropped through her
door at 2am.
Such physical assaults, bullying, intimidation, and attacks on our
dignity should not be acceptable in any workplace in the 21st century.
It is also not acceptable that we still do not know what our position
is - while it has been reported in the press that a deal has been
agreed, none of the workers has been given any information about who
is to be offered their jobs back, who will face compulsory redundancy
and who will be simply sacked. Currently we are being forced to try to
survive on £50 a week.
We urge you to support our struggle for justice.
JOIN US AT OUR DEMONSTRATION OUTSIDE DOWNING STREET
12.00 - 3.00pm
TUESDAY 25 OCTOBER 2005
Further information on the demonstration from 0207 267 0923