Belfast Airport Workers Suspend Hunger Strike outside Union offices

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Date:

Former airport workers, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer suspend their hunger strike after the Unite guarantees that their demands will be met. Despite refusing to speak to the strikers face to face and embarking on a deliberate scaremongering campaign of disinformation to undermine the strike (see http://www.indymedia.ie/article/87081), trade union officials from Unite at HQ at Transport House in Belfast have finally caved into the demands of the striking Airport workers.

The three airport workers were forced to take the drastic action of going on hunger and thirst strike for five days outside Transport House – a decision that they did not take lightly but only came to after years of false promises by trade union officials (including Tony Woodley, Unite General Secretary) in relation to a long-standing compensation claim.

The intransigent trade union officials including Jimmy Kelly – who also happens to be a member of the SWP and regional organiser of Unite (any surprises eh?) – sent in the police to remove them from their premises rather than speaking to the airport workers face to face (see http://www.indymedia.ie/article/87064).

Anyone who has been involved in industrial action or in a long and difficult campaign for an improvement in wages and conditions will not be surprised by the way in which the trade union bureaucracy on their fat cat salaries are more interested in policing their members and cosying up to the bosses than in defending the rights of workers.

However, we must not be blind to the fact that the Socialist Party who were instrumental in building the support campaign were also keen to support Tony Woodley as a ‘left’ candidate for the post of ATGWU secretary only a few years ago. Neither should we let the SWP off the hook in their rather futile and last minute press statement, an attempt to portion blame on the airport workers and cover up for their own collaboration and disgraceful actions with the present trade union bureaucracy including their own member Jimmy Kelly.

Now that they've come off their hunger strike, let’s hope the airport workers make a full recovery!

Latest statement from Airport Workers

The five day hunger strike by three sacked airport shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer was suspended at 5.30 this afternoon after the workers received a letter from the union solicitors guaranteeing that their demands would be met.

The workers were forced to resort to the drastic step of a hunger strike because their union, Unite, had reneged on commitments given to them last September. These were that the union would pay the legal costs of their long running Industrial Tribunal case against their employer, ICTS, and would also meet the costs of defending the Industrial Tribunal ruling should ICTS appeal the decision. The union also promised to offer them compensation for its role in co-operating with ICTS to have them sacked.

The hunger strike has now been suspended because the union has guaranteed to meet the full legal costs and have opened up negotiations on compensation with a guarantee that this will be settled by the end of April.

Sacked shop stewards Gordon McNeill commented at the end of the hunger strike:

“We are suspending our action because we now have a firm commitment from the union that they will implement the promises they made last September. We also have a date by which all the issues of dispute should be resolved.

“We see this as a total vindication of the stand that we have made. Our only regret is that we had to resort to the drastic step of a hunger strike and put our health at risk. If the union had kept their word and implemented what they had agreed last September none of this would have been necessary.

“We also regret that no union official was prepared to meet and discuss with us face to face during our hunger strike. Had they met us the whole thing could have been resolved very quickly and we would not have had to suffer five days of cold, hunger and thirst.

“We have made a stand on behalf of all low paid workers by showing that we were not prepared to be pushed around either by our employer or our union.

“I would like to pay tribute to those people in Ireland, Britain and across the world who inundated Unite union with protests on our behalf.”

After coming off the hunger-strike, the workers have had to go to hospital for medical treatment. All are expected to make a recovery.

Issued on behalf of Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer

Background to strike

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