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Cops sent in to arrest protesting Belfast airport workers

category antrim | worker & community struggles and protests | press release author Monday April 07, 2008 14:36author by f Report this post to the editors

Shame on Tony Woodley & Jimmy Kelly

Please send protests to UNITE against the scandalous treatment of their members.
Belfast airport workers occupy Transport House seeking jusice
Belfast airport workers occupy Transport House seeking jusice

Hunger strike has begun at Transport House Belfast - on behalf of Belfast airport workers
PRESS RELEASE 5th April 2008

Sacked airport shop stewards to re-commence hunger strike at Transport House

Union leaders accused of reneging on promises and commitments given to workers

The two shop stewards have pledged that “we will not call off our hunger strike until we have firm commitments from Tony Woodley that he cannot wriggle out of.”

Two of the shop stewards who were sacked six years ago by airport security company, ICTS, are to begin a hunger strike at Transport House in Belfast on Monday 7 April, demanding that their union, Unite (formerly the TGWU) honour commitments made to them last summer.

Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta have pledged that they will remain on hunger strike until their demands are fully met.

Last September a hunger strike and rooftop protest at Transport House was called off only after Tony Woodley, Unite General Secretary, agreed that the workers’ demands would be met within seven days.

He agreed that the union would pay the £200,000 in legal costs arising from the long court battle which the workers had to fight against ICTS without any support from their union. The workers won this battle, securing last August a landmark legal decision that found they had been sacked because of their trade union opinion and socialist political beliefs.

Tony Woodley also committed the union to pay the costs of defending this decision against any appeal by ICTS. He also promised that the union would pay damages to cover the financial and other hardship these workers have suffered. This was in recognition of the fact that, as was proven in court, senior union officials colluded with ICTS to have 24 of their members, including all their shop stewards sacked. Irish regional secretary, Jimmy Kelly, also made these commitments.

Not one of the commitments made last August has been met. This is why the two shop stewards, backed by their colleague, Chris Bowyer, have decided to resume their protest and have stated that this time “we will only call off our hunger strike when we have firm commitments from Tony Woodley that he cannot wriggle out of.”

Gordon McNeill explains:

“We are taking this drastic action because the leadership of our union have left us with no alternative. All we are asking for is justice. When Tony Woodley promised last September to meet our legal bill and provide compensation, that was an admission that the union was at fault in getting us sacked and in refusing to back our fight over six years.

“We accepted his word and called off our action. We soon discovered that the word of Tony Woodley and other senior leaders of this union is worthless.

“Not one of the promises they made have been kept. We have been left to pay half of our £200,000 legal bill, an impossible amount for low paid workers who found themselves out of work because we were betrayed by our union.

“ICTS are appealing the Tribunal decision and the union have not honoured their commitment to cover the costs. Our legal team have told us they are going to pull out of the case because the union will not put up the money to fight it.

”This means that ICTS can win the case by default. A victory we won for all trade unionists last year could be reversed because the leaders of Unite are about to present ICTS with an legal open goal.

“As to the promise to compensate us for their role in colluding with ICTS to get us sacked, not a penny has been offered or given.

“We are now demanding that all the commitments made last September by Tony Woodley and other senior Unite officials, including the senior regional officials in Ireland, be met in full. We also want a public inquiry set up to examine the union’s handling of this dispute from day one until now.

“We are not entering into this protest lightly. Madan Gupta is 72 years old and suffers from diabetes. I am 38, but in poor health with a heart condition. We know the consequences of starting what this time is likely to be a protracted hunger strike but we are absolutely determined to face the consequences.

“As we have said repeatedly over the last six years, we are not anti-trade union. We are committed trade unionists and want to see strong unions that are able to defend the interests of their members. It is the rotten role played by trade union leaders, as in our dispute, which disillusion workers and weaken the unions.

“ICTS thought we would just go away but we stuck it out and won an important victory against them. Tony Woodley and the Unite leadership should not make the same mistake and think that, because we are just ordinary workers from Northern Ireland, that they can walk all over us. Our struggle will continue until justice is done.”


Contact Gordon McNeill on 07934632366

The points raised above about the union’s refusal to meet the ongoing legal expenses can be confirmed by our legal team. For confirmation please contact our solicitor Archie McCormack of Church Street , Ballymena Tel:25648479

The Barristers involved in our case - David McBrinne, Noelle McGrenner and Fintan Canavan (of Jones & Co., Potter House, Waring St, Belfast) can be contacted through our solicitor and will confirm what we say about the union reneging on all the promises they gave.

Issued by Gordon McNeill & Madan Gupta 5th April 2008

Belfast airport workers – Six years on

Still fighting for justice

The facts of the dispute

Six years on from the decision by their employer, airport security firm, ICTS, to sack them for striking for a pay increase, the shop stewards who led this dispute are still campaigning for justice.

Two of the shop stewards, Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta, have decided to begin a hunger strike at Transport House demanding that commitments given to them last September by UNITE General Secretary Tony Woodley and other senior officials of the union, including Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, be honoured in full.

The following is some background to the dispute which explains why the shop stewards have have been left with no choice but to resort to this drastic action.

On 8 May 2002 airport security workers in Belfast International Airport went on strike demanding a 50p per hour pay rise to bring their rate up to 6 per hour. The strike had been properly balloted and the workers had assurances from the union that it was official. During the strike the workers received threats from ICTS management that the action was illegal and that they could be sacked. The T&GWU official responsible for the dispute suddenly became impossible to contact despite repeated efforts by the workers to do so.

Following the strike the union issued a letter of repudiation of the action, thereby giving ICTS the green light to sack about half those who had been on strike, including all the shop stewards. It was subsequently established in evidence given to the Industrial Tribunal that the T&GWU official, who was unavailable for any consultation with his members, was nonetheless readily available for secret consultations with the employers. Two days after the strike he met with senior members of ICTS management in a pub near the airport and handed them a letter repudiating the strike.

The sacked workers have fought a long campaign against ICTS, and against their union who clearly colluded with the company to have them dismissed. They have demanded an explanation of the role of the official involved and of senior figures in the union, including the legal director and then General Secretary, Bill Morris, who all backed the Company’s line that the strike was illegal.

Rather than provide answers to these questions, the union attempted to cover up what happened. Union leaders made promises to back the workers in their ongoing fight against ICTS but these promises proved worthless. In the end the workers had to continue the fight on their own, using their own limited recourses. Meanwhile the officials involved in this betrayal and cover up continued in post as though nothing had happened. The official who did the secret deal in the pub and who was found by the Tribunal to have lied under oath eventually retired with full benefits and a job reference that allowed him to get a job in the Labour Relations Agency, supposedly acting as an “honest broker” in industrial disputes.

The attempt to cover up what happened continued as before when there was a change in the leadership of the TGWU and Tony Woodley replaced Bill Morris as General Secretary. An assurance made by Tony Woodley to the shop stewards that he would take up their case and lead a battle against ICTS, was never acted upon. Instead, in June 2003, he negotiated a rotten deal with ICTS management in which he accepted the victimisation of the shop stewards and most of the sacked workers in return for a pittance of compensation. Strike benefits paid by the union were to be deducted from this money. This would have left some of the workers out of pocket! Not surprisingly the workers unanimously rejected this offer, despite Tony Woodley’s insistence that it was a “damned good deal” and “the best that they were going to get”. From this point the T&GWU washed their hands of the dispute and gave the workers no further support or assistance. Instead the shop stewards faced a campaign of intimidation, including death threats received through the post. There is alleged evidence that these threats came from Transport House. There were also direct paramilitary threats warning them to “back off or else”.

Despite all this the workers fought on. They funded their own legal case against ICTS. This turned into a protracted legal battle. First they had to show that the dispute was legal, contrary to what both ICTS and the union’s legal advisors had said at the time of the strike. In January 2005, the Industrial Tribunal found that the strike was lawful. This decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Jan 2006. With this decision it was obvious that they had a strong legal case but still the union refused to provide them with any legal backing or to offer any assistance with their ongoing costs.

Rather than allow the case to be lost by default through lack of funds, the shop stewards put every up asset at their disposal, including their homes, to make sure that the legal battle with ICTS would continue. Finally on 18 August 2007 they won a landmark victory that was a breakthrough, not only for themselves, but for all trade unionists. The Industrial Tribunal found that nineteen workers had been unfairly dismissed by ICTS. It went on to find that the sacking of the shop stewards was political discrimination; that ICTS had got rid of them because of their socialist political outlook as trade unionists. This decision makes it more difficult and potentially much more costly for employers to sack any trade union activists as much higher damages can be awarded in discrimination cases than in straightforward claims of unfair dismissal.

The shop stewards greeted this judgement as a victory for the whole trade union movement and publicly appealed to the Unite leadership to come on board and help use it to reinforce the position of shop stewards and activists in the workplaces. After the decision was issued the shop stewards traveled to London on 21 August 2007 to meet with Tony Woodley and other senior Unite officials. The shop stewards asked them to recognise the victory that had been won and to take immediate steps to resolve the conflict that had developed between all the sacked airport workers and the union.

They asked that the union agree to pay the £200,000 legal bill that the workers had incurred in pursuing the case. They asked also for a commitment that the union would meet the cost of defending the Tribunal judgement, should ICTS decide to appeal. Finally they asked the union make a payment to compensate the workers for all the hardship that the union’s actions in colluding directly with ICTS to have them sacked had caused.

Assurances were given at this meeting by Tony Woodley and the other officials present that the union would meet these demands. They would pay agreed legal costs and, if necessary, would go to the Taxation Court which adjudicates on such matters, to establish that the costs were fair. They would meet the costs of any appeal and would come back with a figure for compensation.

Following this meeting, and with the threat of protest action by the shop stewards lifted, the union returned to its six year long tactic of prevarication and evasion. It was nothing had been done to fulfill the verbal promises made in London that, at the start of September 07, the shop stewards began a rooftop protest at Transport House in Belfast. This led to a further meeting in London at which more definite assurances were given. Tony Woodley promised that he would come up with a compensation figure and resolve the other issues within seven days.

Seven months on and not the union has not met a single one of these promises.

There has been no offer of compensation. The workers’ legal team have had to issue writs on the union for damages but, because the shop stewards do not want to have to take the union to court and waste members money on legal fees for a matter that could be settled by direct negotiation, these have not yet been served.

The union has unilaterally pulled out of the agreement to go to the Taxation Court to establish whether the legal bill, of more than £200,000 was fair. Rather than attempting to reach an agreement on the bill they made a payment of 100,000 and are refusing to pay more. The union’s refusal to pay the bill means that the workers, who have already paid £38,000 from their own pockets, will not get this money back and face an additional bill of around £70,000.

The have also broken the agreement to cover barrister fees to defend the Tribunal decision against appeal. In November 2007 the shop stewards’ legal team informed them that, because the union were holding back on offering any money, they were withdrawing from the case. The shop stewards had to go to court with a request that they could represent themselves.

The barristers then agreed to stick with the case on the basis of the £100,000 part costs being paid and because the union was offering to agree with them an hourly rate for the costs of the appeal. To date the union have avoided any discussion with the barristers on this. In March 2008 the barristers informed the shop stewards that they were going to return all the documents relating to the case and pull out of the appeal. In effect the victory that was won last August is now in jeopardy because the union have reneged on its commitment to meet the appeal costs. They are handing ICTS a victory on a plate.

Faced with this long saga of betrayal and double dealing by the senior officials of the T&GWU and now Unite, the shop stewards have decided that their only hope of redress is by going on hunger strike and through this making sure that the public, particularly other trade union members, are made aware of what has been going on.

They are demanding that the commitments entered into by the union last August and September be met in full and without any further delay.

They are also demanding a public inquiry into the way the union has handled this dispute from the events that led up to the strike until the present day.

They will end their hunger strike only when they have firm commitments on these issues that the Unite leadership cannot back away from.

Meanwhile the battle against ICTS continues. Senior management figures from ICTS were found, by the Tribunal to have told blatant lies when giving their evidence. Yet this company is in charge of the day to day security of passengers at airports. As well as pressing for the Managing Directors of ICTS to be prosecuted for perjury, the shop stewards are campaigning for airport security to be taken out of private hands and brought back into the public sector.

Throughout this long dispute the actions of the shop stewards have never been anti-union, but have always been pro genuine trade unionism. They are calling on all trade unionists to get involved in their unions in order to end the practice of doing dirty deals with management at the expense of members. They want to see the unions democratised with all Officials elected and paid the same wages as the members they represent.

Issued by Gordon McNeill & Madan Gupta 5th April 2008

Jimmy Kelly & Tony Woodley have sent in the cops!
Jimmy Kelly & Tony Woodley have sent in the cops!

author by Supporterpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 16:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Jimmy Kelly is a member of the SWP, you should phone them up and ask them why one of their members has called on the PSNI to arrest these workers.

author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist Partypublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 17:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The airport workers have now come down from the canopy at the front of Transport House and are continuing their protest and hunger strike at the front gates of the building. They were forced to come down from the canopy because the PSNI threatened to arrest them. Jimmy Kelly UNITE T&G Regional Secretary and SWP member called in the PSNI to arrest the airport workers.
Please show your support to the "Belfast Airport Workers" and your opposition to the leading officials in UNITE who have reneged on their previous agreements with these workers.

Phone UNITE T&G Transport House Belfast from Northern Ireland and Britain 02890 232381
From Republic of Ireland - 04890 232381

Email Jimmy Kelly -

Contact the SWP and ask them why one of their leading members, Jimmy Kelly has not only threatened to have the "Belfast Airport Workers" arrested but has also sided with Tony Woodley in trying to sell these workers out and has reneged on their previous agreements.

Phone the SWP in Dublin at 01 8722682 or email them at

author by fpublication date Mon Apr 07, 2008 18:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors






author by fpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 07:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The sacked Belfast shop stewards are continuing their hunger strike outside Transport House in Belfast. Irish Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly yesterday authorised using the cops to remove them from occupying the entrance rooftop of the building. Under threat of arrest and a possible injunction against protesting outside the union headquarters in future, the workers decided to continue their hunger strike outside the building.

Please contact UNITE to protest against their refusal to keep it's promises to assist these workers. (Find more info below)

Jimmy Kelly is also a member of the SWP - Contact the SWP at or by phone (00353) 18722682 or 07717123462

And very importantly - Come down and show your support for the sacked airport workers outside Transport House, Belfast.

author by butterfly - nonepublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i find this totally unbelievable, a member of the SWP would operate in this way. I presume they fully support this action given their silence. what new lows can the SWP stoop to?

is there an update on the situation

solidarity to the brave airport workers

author by fpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 13:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta, two shop stewards who were unlawfully sacked by security firm ICTS have now entered their 40th hour on hunger strike outside Transport House in Belfast. Becuase of the UNITE union's refusal to pay the full legal costs of their appeal case, they have also begun a thirst strike and have stopped taking any fluids.

They are beginning to feel the effects of this drastic action and face serious medical disintegration today if the union refuse to fulfill it's commitments they made last September. Mr Gupta is 72 years old an is diabetic. Mr McNeill has a serious heart condition.

author by squinterpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 13:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Is this just a faction fight between the SP and the SWP? It's hard to get interested in the issues when this sort of foolishness is going on (we know the two trotskyist micro groups hate each other, there is no point in people putting their health at risk to further this row)

author by Blinkerpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 13:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Careful what you say, Squinter, or you just may end up having to issue another front page apology!!!

author by Robinpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 13:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's well more than that. This was one of the main planks of Mick O'Reilly's reinstatement campaign when UNITE was the T & G. All of the main far left groups supported this. A union failing to represent it's members and being part of a cover up to the shoddy treatment of these men is much bigger than your puported sectarian spotting.

author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist Partypublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 13:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Squinter I would suggest that you do some research and read up on the campaign for justice by the sacked Belfast Airport Workers. This has nothing at all to do with a dispute between the Socialist Party and the SWP.
The issue relates to the SWP because the current regional secretary of UNITE in Ireland is Jimmy Kelly and he is a long standing member of the SWP. Jimmy Kelly is involved with the union's general secretary Tony Woodley in an attempt to abandon these workers at a critical time in their campaign.
Read the above statement from the workers.

author by Fpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 14:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sacked airport shop steward, Gordon McNeill, who, along with colleagues Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, is on the second day of a hunger strike outside Transport House today slammed the leadership of the Unite union for embarking on a campaign of “black propaganda and misinformation” about this dispute.

Gordon said: “Instead of meeting us face to face to discuss our reasonable demands the union leadership have resorted to using the police to threaten us with arrest alongside a campaign of deliberate misinformation to try to discredit us.

“They have issues press releases headed “Protesters demand £1million each from Unite” to try to make us appear unreasonable and unrealistic in our demands. This is just black propaganda. The union have not offered us a single penny in compensation for the fact that our union official colluded with our employer to have us sacked. If they had stuck to the commitments they gave us last September to make a reasonable offer of compensation, we would not be here.

“Likewise, if they had stuck to their commitments to meet our legal bills, we would not be taking this action. Contrary to what they say in their statements they have left us with a bill of tens of thousands that we simply cannot afford to pay.

“We are today issuing a direct challenge to the senior official of Unite in Ireland, Jimmy Kelly - come and meet us face to face to discuss our demands. Our union officials have had no difficulty when it comes to meeting and doing dirty deals with employers. Why can’t they have face to face meetings with their members.”

For interviews contact Gordon McNeill on 07934632366

Issued on behalf of Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta

author by David - www.dearunite.compublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 22:44author email mailings at amicus dot ccauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I've done my best to summarise this story on I expect to get (another) letter from Woodley's solicitors about it. Can someone send me a contact email address for either of the shop stewards? Was it the Court of Appeal or the Employment Appeal Tribunal that upheld the lawful dispute decision? The extremely expensive Appeal Court is the next stage after the Employment Appeal Tribunal, is that what money is needed for now?



Related Link:
author by SR - SPpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 22:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hope this might shed some light on the background of the court cases for you.

author by SRpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 23:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For calling you Dave. My original title was longer and I need to shorten it then just went with a much shorter one and forgot to change your name back.

author by David - www.dearunite.compublication date Wed Apr 09, 2008 17:00author email mailings at amicus dot ccauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I've heard that Gordon McNeill has just been carted off in an ambulance so sounds like this is getting serious quickly.

As expected TGWU/Unite lawyers are on the case, here for info is the Unite press release which gives their side of the story and which I will be running on before I get the expected letter (note the line about defamation).

I'll read any comments or corrections put here to the press release.


Unite Press Release:

Protesters outside Unite HQ in Belfast are demanding the union pay them £1m each it was claimed today.
The union said claims by the men that legal fees had not been paid was incorrect and the men were now seeking £3m from Unite in order to settle the dispute.
The union believes it has acted honourably in responding to the individual’s requests that legal costs be covered … and it has.
Unite the union is aware that a press statement has been issued on behalf of Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta, in relation to a dispute between the two men and the union.
The union had no intention of making public statements about this dispute, but it is compelled to do so because of the incorrect information provided about the union and named officers of the union. It is correct that a case has been pursued in the Tribunal in Belfast and the Tribunal found in favour of the individuals in cases against their former employer ICTS. The individual claimants were represented by Breslin McCormick solicitors of Belfast, and since the Tribunal judgment was issued the union has paid to the solicitors £106000 on account of legal costs, and the union is involved in constructive and amicable negotiations with the solicitors to reach agreement over outstanding areas of claim. The allegation the union has reneged on a promise to pay the costs is wrong and defames those involved on the union’s behalf. There is very little chance that Mr. McNeill or Mr. Gupta will be required to pay a single penny towards the costs bill.
Whilst the individuals have received some compensation from ICTS, part of the Tribunal’s decision is subject to an appeal. The costs of the appeal are being paid by the union. The allegation that the union has reneged on a promise to pay these costs is wrong and defames those involved on the union’s behalf. The agreement to pay the appeal costs was notified to Breslin McCormick solicitors several weeks ago and will be known to the individuals.

In fact, amicable discussions regarding the costs issues took place between legal representatives as recently as the morning of Friday 4th April.

Mr. McNeill and Mr. Gupta (and Mr. Bowyer) have instructed other solicitors (Mr. Canavan of Jones and Company) to pursue a claim for other compensation against the union. The Unite Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley did agree to investigate this claim and the union’s solicitors have engaged in to date confidential discussions with Mr. Canavan, including by visiting Mr. Canavan`s office in Belfast earlier this year. The union had hoped to reach agreement in relation to this dispute, but the individuals have demanded payments of £1 million each to settle the dispute. Mr. Woodley and Unite are unable to make such payments which are without any legal justification, and fail to take into account the sums already payable by ICTS. Mr. Woodley and the Regional Secretary for Ireland Jimmy Kelly have made payments of hardship benefits to the individuals and by agreeing to pay the legal costs, the union has complied in full with the assurances given in September 2007.

The union is disappointed that the press release was issued and contains so many inaccuracies. The union would prefer to continue to negotiate through solicitors as was agreed by Mr. McNeill and Mr. Gupta, and the union will not pay out several million pounds, even when faced with threats to begin a hunger strike. All of the individuals have received compensation and now have no legal bills to face. There is no need to begin a hunger strike and in the light of the above information the threat to do so could be viewed as representing the most unreasonable pressure on the union and individual union officers. Despite these threats and the false allegations made Unite will continue to address the issues concerning legal costs and will continue to fund the appeal. The union has no desire to see Mr. McNeill and Mr. Gupta on hunger strike and they are encouraged to instruct Mr. Canavan to make urgent contact with the union’s solicitor.


Related Link:
author by Tompublication date Wed Apr 09, 2008 18:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Unite statement is disgusting. To drive members of your union to hunger strike is bad enough. But to then refuse to meet with them and instead spread lies about them is outrageous. Shame on the Unite leadership!

Anyway, here is the response from the workers involved.

Airport workers reply to UNITE statement
- A Fabrication from start to finish

Three sacked airport shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, began a hunger strike at Transport House Belfast on Monday 7 April demanding justice from their union, Unite. Rather than attempt to resolve this issue through direct dialogue with the shop stewards, the union’s answer has been coercion – in the form of instructions to the police to forcibly remove them from the building – and misinformation – in the form of a Unite public statement that completely falsifies what has happened in this dispute and misrepresents what the protesting shop stewards are demanding.

This statement, which was issued to the press and widely circulated by email, carries the dramatic headline “Protesters demand £1 million each from Unite”. It begins: “Protesters outside Unite HQ in Belfast are demanding the union pay them 1 million each, it was claimed to day. The union said claims by that legal fees had not been paid was incorrect and the men were now seeking £3m from Unite in order to settle the dispute.”

This is false from start to finish. The workers are not on hunger strike for “one million each”. They are on hunger strike because, apart from a small amount paid for hardship last year, the union has not paid or offered to pay them a single penny in compensation for the hardship it caused them.

They are also on hunger strike because, contrary to what is claimed by the Unite statement, the union has not paid the legal costs. They have paid only part of the legal costs, leaving the workers with a huge legal bill that they will never be able to pay.

In short they are on hunger strike because the actions of their union led to them losing their jobs and are now leaving them considerably out of pocket.

How can the Unite leadership make assertions about what the shop stewards want when they are refusing to meet with them to ask what their demands are? Since the start of their hunger strike the only “negotiator” who the union has sent to talk to the strikers has been from the PSNI! Since when does any union “negotiate” with its members via the police?

The Unite leadership can end the hunger strike at any time by arranging a face-to-face meeting with the shop stewards and negotiating a resolution.

What the dispute was about?

The shop stewards are issuing this response to answer, one by one, the false claims made by Unite in their statement. In considering these points it is important to keep in mind what this six year long dispute has been about.

It began when 24 airport security workers were sacked by their employer, ICTS, for striking for a 50 pence per hour pay rise. The company went ahead with the sackings only after the T&GWU official responsible for the airport met secretly with ICTS management and gave them a letter repudiating the strike. This is the main ground for their complaint that the union was complicit in helping ICTS get rid off them.

Last August the shop stewards won their long legal battle with ICTS. They secured a groundbreaking legal ruling that their sacking amounted to political discrimination on grounds of their trade union and socialist beliefs. The issue of payment of their legal bill only arises because the union had previously told them they had no legal case and gave them no legal backing, leaving them to meet the full costs of the case.

Have the union reneged on its commitments?

Last September the shop stewards called off a protest at Transport House only after they received an assurance from Unite General Secretary, Tony Woodley, that the union would pay the legal costs of the Industrial Tribunal case, that it would fund the costs of defending any Appeal against the Tribunal ruling and that it would come back, within seven days, with an offer of compensation for its role in contributing to the 24 workers being sacked.

The Unite statement states that “the union has complied in full with the assurances given in September 2007”. This is completely untrue. Below are the facts of what has happened. These show that the Unite leadership has not honoured a single one of the commitments they gave last year.

1) The legal costs of the case against ICTS

Unite’s claims

The Unite statement says that the union has paid £106,000 of the legal costs and “is involved in constructive and amicable negotiations with the solicitors to reach agreement over outstanding areas of claim”. It goes on: “There is very little chance that Mr McNeill or Mr Gupta will be required to pay a single penny towards the costs bill”.

The facts

The total legal bill for the Tribunal case is over £200,000. When discussing last August and September whether they would pay this bill, Tony Woodley and the other Unite representatives expressed concern that the bill might be too high and that they could not be expected to pay any amount that the solicitor might present. Their concerns were taken on board by the shop stewards and it was agreed that the union and the shop steward’s legal teams would submit the bill to the Taxation Court to either establish that it was reasonable or else to amend it.

The union subsequently reneged on this agreement and this is the root of the present problem. Instead of taking the bill to the Taxation Court they unilaterally decided to pay about half the bill. There has been a suggestion that they would make a further payment of less than half the outstanding amount. The solicitors representing the shop stewards, Breslin McCormick, who are still prepared to go to the Taxation Court , can confirm that there are no “constructive and amiable discussions” about payment of the rest of the bill.

To date the workers have had to pay £38000 from their own pockets just to keep the case alive. Even if the union give way and make another payment as has been hinted the workers would end up having to pay around £20,000 in addition to the £38,000 they have already paid.

What the workers want

They want a commitment that the full bill will be paid. After all they won a victory for all trade unionists and only incurred this bill because of the Union ’s insistence that they had no legal case. After years of broken promises by successive union leaderships they will not accept a vague commitment that “there is very little chance” that they will have to pay a single penny. If Unite have a problem with the amount being demanded they should take the matter to the Taxation Court .

2) The cost of an Appeal

Unite’s claims

ICTS have appealed the Tribunal decision. The Appeal date was originally set for the first week of April but has been postponed until June. Unite’s statement claims that “The costs of the appeal are being paid by the union.” It goes on “The agreement to pay the appeal costs was notified to Breslin McCormick solicitors several weeks ago and will be well known to the individuals.” They also say that “amicable discussions” on the costs took place between legal representatives “as recently as the morning of Friday 4 April”.

The facts

Last September the Union agreed that it would meet the costs of an Appeal. It was also agreed that the barristers who had handled the case at the Tribunal would defend the Appeal. Unite committed to work out an hourly rate which they would be paid and they would be taken on that basis.

Unite has since reneged on this agreement. The claims made in its statement are pure fiction. The union has refused every request from the shop stewards’ legal team to discuss the rate at which the barristers would be paid. How could they have notified Breslin McCormick of their agreement to pay the appeal costs when they have not entered into any discussions about what those costs would be?

As for the “amicable discussions” “between legal representatives” on Friday 4 April, there were not only no “amicable discussions” there were no discussions of any sort on that day, as Breslin McCormick will confirm. It is deplorable that when faced with such a serious issue as three of their members putting their health at risk in order to achieve justice, the Unite leadership just make up the facts as they go along in order to try to present themselves in a good light.

The barristers employed by the shop stewards to represent them at the Tribunal and the Appeal have recently informed their solicitors that, because of the union’s refusal to commit to pay their costs, they are returning all the legal documents relating to the case and will not be handling the appeal.

As things stand the shop stewards will not be able to defend the case. ICTS will win by default. The shop stewards will lose the compensation they were awarded by the Tribunal. The trade union movement will lose the added protection against dismissal that was gained by the Tribunal judgement.

What the workers want?

They want Unite to implement the agreement reached last September.. This means immediate discussions with the legal team who handled the Tribunal case with a view to re-employing them at an agreed rate and a commitment that these agreed costs will be paid in full.

3) The “million pounds compensation”

Unite’s claims

Unite’s statement says: “The union had hoped to reach agreement in relation to this dispute, but the individuals have demanded payments of I million each to settle the dispute. Mr Woodley and Unite are unable to make such payments…”

The facts:

Last September the union agreed that it would come back “within seven days” with an offer of compensation for the fact that the union contributed to 24 of its members being sacked. They broke this commitment. No offer was made within the seven days. Not a penny has been offered since.

The shop stewards had hoped that last September’s deal would be an end to this dispute and no further action would be needed. But when Unite failed to honour what had been agreed they investigated the alternative angle of a legal case against the union for damages. They have made it clear all along that they do not want to go down this road. They do not want to have both sides spend money on solicitors and barristers to resolve something that could and should be dealt with by negotiation.

They have employed a solicitor, Fintan Canavan, of Jones and Company to look into the possibility of a legal case. He has been involved in negotiations with the union solicitors about possible compensation. The figure of £1 million has appeared because this was put forward by Fintan Canavan, on behalf of the shop stewards, as an initial figure to discuss. It was made clear that it was put forward for negotiating purposes.

However it seems that the trade union negotiators at the head of Unite have never heard of negotiation. They are now using the fact that this figure was ever mentioned as an excuse to break off all negotiations and refuse to make any offer. This is in breach of all the commitments given both to Fintan Canavan and to the shop stewards directly.

For example, Fintan Canavan met with the union legal representative in January of this year. He was told that the workers were asking for much more than the union would give and responded by saying, if that was the case, make an offer. The union agreed, following a phone call from the legal representative to Tony Woodley, that an emergency Finance and General Purposes Committee meeting would be called and an offer, much lower than what was asked for, would be made. The emergency meeting was never called and a subsequent normal F&GPC meeting decided that no offer would be made.

The issue at contention now is not, as Unite are misleadingly trying to claim, that the shop stewards are insisting on 1 million, it is that the union are refusing to offer them a single penny.

What the workers want

They want Unite to do what it said it would do last September and again in February and make them an offer. They want an immediate face-to-face meeting with senior representatives of the union to discuss and hopefully to reach a final agreement on this.


It would not be difficult to resolve this dispute so long as both parties want it resolved. Unfortunately the response of the Unite leadership in calling in the police and launching a campaign of misinformation indicates that they are not interested in resolving it. All trade union members and activists should immediately contact the Unite leadership in Ireland and Britain demanding that they enter into urgent discussions with the shop stewards and meet their just demands.

Tony Woodley, Jimmy Kelly and others at the top of Unite must be held directly responsible for the deteriorating health of the hunger striking shop stewards.

Issued by Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer 21:26pm Tuesday 8th April 2008

author by Unite insiderpublication date Thu Apr 10, 2008 22:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The reason he is not supporting them is because of the merger that unite is currently going through.

For those that are not aware Unite is the product of the merger of the ATGWU and Amicus. Both about the same size in terms of membership. The two unions are therefore in the process of merging structures including the top jobs.

Jimmy Kelly got the top job of the overall union in Ireland. He owes his position to a shafting of the Amicus Irish regional Secretary, who was hoping to share the position. This shafting was administered from afar in London. this is why Jimmy Kelly is unwilling to step on the toes of Woodley over in London. And this would also explain why he is unwilling to step on the toes of some rotten officials up in Transport House, he need all the support he can get so he can keep his cushy salary.

Hardly the actions of a socialist or a so called shop floor representative

author by unite member - unitepublication date Mon May 26, 2008 20:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Not only did kelly shaft the amicus regional sec, he skillfully filleted mick o'reilly and mick thanked him for it, and woodley's unprincipled hatchet man in region 3 is now about to be rewarded with the assistant g.s. position. if ever anything highlighted the need to elect all officals subject to recall this does.

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