Gate Gourmet strikers agree on deal

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The Independent Online

A meeting of sacked Gate Gourmet workers voted overwhelmingly yesterday to back proposals to end the bitter dispute which provoked a wildcat walkout at Heathrow last month.

Under the proposed agreement, 144 of the dismissed employees will not be taken back by the airline catering company, but will receive severance payments.

Officials of the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) have to persuade those made compulsorily redundant to accept the terms and waive any right to take legal action against Gate Gourmet or the deal could fall apart.

As part of the accord, 187 of the 713 sacked workers will be getting their jobs back, 210 will be offered the choice of re-employment or redundancy and 172 will definitely be taking severance.

The management offer was accepted at a 600-strong meeting with just four workers voting against.

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the T&G, said the proposals meant that 80 per cent of the sacked workers would "get what they wanted". The union said those being made redundant had been selected on "objective" criteria such as attendance, performance and skills and they would all be allowed to appeal.

Management has always insisted that "troublemakers", who allegedly led an unofficial walkout at the company, would not be reinstated. However the union said that it was not a criteria for selecting those who would not be offered jobs.

Mr Woodley said the "bitter and historic" dispute would have to lead to changes in the law. On Monday Mr Woodley successfully persuaded the Labour Party conference to vote in favour of legislation allowing solidarity action, making strike-balloting procedures simpler and preventing the dismissal of strikers or their replacement with alternative workers.

In a statement Eric Born, managing director of the US-owned company, said: "As we said all along, we are happy to consider re-engaging some of the workers dismissed for staging an illegal walkout." He said the speed with which the deal could be finalised depended on those being made compulsorily redundant signing "compromise agreements" which will waive their right to take their cases to employment tribunals.