Sacked staff wonder how they will pay the bills

She has worked at the catering company, which proudly states on its website that treating "colleagues, customers and suppliers with respect and dignity" is one of its most important corporate values, for seven years.

But Mrs Olakh said she was treated like a criminal when she and the rest of her shift workers were frogmarched out of their factory building by police on Wednesday afternoon.

Mrs Olakh, who earned around £17,000 a year at Gourmet and has an eight-year-old son, is now terrified about how she is going to make ends meet after being sacked.

"I'm still in shock. I can't believe it. Wednesday was just a normal day at work until we went to the canteen for a meeting about the casual workers that were being hired.

"The management had already told us they were going to lay hundreds of us off, so we were angry that they were taking on casuals. The next thing was that the general manager came in and told us that we all had five minutes to go back to work or be sacked. All we wanted was to speak to our union rep about what was going on, so we stayed put. He then came back with two policemen and told us we were sacked. He said that if we didn't leave immediately, we would be forcibly removed. I was suddenly very scared and was made to feel like a criminal.

"I really don't know what I'm going to do now," she said from outside Gate's factory at terminal 4, amazed that British Airways staff walked out in sympathy with her and her colleagues. "I'm overwhelmed by the support we have had. I had no idea that all the other BA workers would show solidarity with us."

Mrs Olakh added that she was "obviously very sympathetic to all the passengers who are stuck,"but appalled at the manner in which she and her fellow workers had been treated.

"We have all worked very hard for Gourmet over the years. Being out of a job wouldn't be so bad if I had a partner who could help financially and pay the bills, but I have to pay the entire mortgage and bring up my son on my own. I just want my job back."

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