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URGENT - Airport Workers Resume Protest at Transport House

category antrim | worker & community struggles and protests | news report author Thursday May 15, 2008 14:48author by xauthor email belfastairportworkers at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

Please print off leaflets (links provided below) and contact Unite to protest against their refusal to pay the legal costs and adequate compensation to the sacked workes.

Unite leadership go back on their promises to pay legal fees and compensate the sacked shop stewards
“We have learned that nothing the unite leadership say can be trusted. Every member of the union would do well to note the way we have been lied to and fobbed off”
Gordon McNeill

The three sacked airport shop stewards who called off a week long hunger and thirst strike on 11 April, after they received assurances from their union, Unite, that commitments made to them last September would be met, have resumed protest action at Transport House. In a repeat of the action that last month led to the union calling the police to remove the protestors, Gordon McNeill this morning occupied the awning at the front of the building. Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer have said they will take his place if the union has him arrested.

The previous hunger strike ended with a promise from the union that they would pay the outstanding legal bill for the long court action taken by the sacked workers against their former employer, ICTS. Unite also said that they would make an offer of compensation to the shop stewards for the hardship which the actions of the union leadership had put them through. All this was to have been done by 30 April.

The 30 April deadline passed without any movement by the Unite leadership on any of these issues. Instead, on 8 May, the shop stewards received a letter from the union solicitor which went back on all the previous promises that had been made.

On four occasions over the last eight months the Unite leadership gave firm guarantees that they will pay the legal bills and offer compensation. Their latest letter revokes all these promises. All it offers is to continue discussions which have already dragged on for years. For the first time it introduces strings and conditions on any offer. In a recent meeting with the shop stewards, Unite Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, made clear that, as a precondition for any settlement, he wanted a letter from the shop stewards exonerating himself and current General Secretary, Tony Woodley, for their role in the dispute.

Faced with this double dealing and intransigence the shop stewards can only conclude that the Unite leadership have never had any intention of resolving this dispute and have been stringing them along with false promises. They have therefore decided to begin an escalating campaign of public protest action to force the union leadership to stand by their earlier promises.

Gordon McNeill today explained his decision:

“I have been left with no choice but to begin a campaign of protest action to expose the treacherous and dismissive treatment we have received at the hands of Tony Woodley and other senior Unite officials. I intend to begin with an occupation of Transport House and, if the union leadership still refuse to act in a reasonable manner and grant our demands, will escalate my action to a hunger and thirst strike. My two colleagues, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, will be supporting me in this.

The union leadership has gone back on every promise they made to us. They have lied to us and to the public. For example when we started our hunger and thirst strike in April they immediately issued a statement to the press saying that our legal bills had been paid and that this was no longer an issue of dispute. This was a blatant lie.

“Our legal bill has still not been paid; the union has had no further discussions with our solicitor over this. There is no commitment in their 8 May letter to ever pay it.

“I have had enough of all this deception. We can only conclude that Tony Woodley has no intention of giving us justice. This can only be because he does not want the full truth about his role to ever come out. He clearly wants to cover up the fact that he told us we had no legal case and tried to bully us into accepting a rotten deal that he negotiated with ICTS.

“We have also faced paramilitary death threats. Two of us were bundled into a van at gunpoint and told to walk away from the dispute or else. We have alleged evidence that at least some of this intimidation was organised from within Transport House and have passed this evidence on to the police.

“We won’t sign any letters exonerating Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly. What we need is not a whitewash of the role of Unite leaders but a full investigation into what they have done so that every member of the union is fully informed about what has been going on.

“I regret once again having to engage in public protest action against my union leadership. I would far rather be joining with them in helping to build the union. But their on going intransigence leaves me with no choice. The actions of union officials in getting me sacked and refusing to support our legal action against our employer, ICTS, have left me with debts I can never afford to pay. It makes no difference to well paid full time officials how long this dispute drags on. But every week and month that passes I go further into debt and it is my family and especially my children who suffer.

“I know that it will be difficult to shift a leadership who are obviously determined to endlessly spin this out in the hope that we will eventually just go away. That is why we are appealing to fellow trade unionists to help us by contacting the Unite leaders and demanding that they fulfill the promises they made to us in September, and then repeated in January, and twice in April. We will not be ending this protest unless and until they do.”

Issued by Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer 15th May 2008

Gordon McNeill can be contacted at 07934632366

Please print off leaflets & poster and distribute/display in your workplace.

Related Link:
author by Ppublication date Thu May 15, 2008 17:36Report this post to the editors

Gordon McNeill has now begun a hunger and thirst strike. For more information go to

author by - unitepublication date Thu May 15, 2008 18:53author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comReport this post to the editors

I sent a message earlier but obviously it doesnt sit with the views you want on the site and the belfats airport issue

author by Supporterpublication date Thu May 15, 2008 18:57Report this post to the editors

URGENT PRESS RELEASE – Thursday 15th May

Airport Workers Update: Gordon McNeill begins Hunger and Thirst Strike

Immediate Release

Gordon McNeill who began a protest and occupation of Transport House today at 1.30pm has now escalated his action to a hunger and thirst strike.

This action was prompted after Unite, the union, have refused to pay legal fees they had initially agreed to pay on 11th April. Mr McNeill’s action is down to the intransigence of the Unite leadership in dealing with his case.

The other sacked shop stewards, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, will remain with Mr McNeill during his hunger and thirst strike to give support.

Mr McNeill stated today, “The responsibility for any serious implications from my hunger and thirst strike lie solely Jimmy Kelly and Tony Woodley. I would call on all Unite members to challenge the union on their disgraceful role in this dispute.”

After Mr McNeill’s initial hunger strike at the start of April doctors warned that any further action of this sort could cause even more damage to his health. The previous hunger strike was called off after Unite gave assurances through the airport workers solicitor that they would pay legal fees and agree compensation by the 30th April. This deadline and a second on the 6th May passed without the union giving any such offer.

Instead Jimmy Kelly met with the airport workers on the 3rd May and for the first time attached strings to any future offer. Mr Kelly demanded that a letter exonerating both himself and Tony Woodley must be provided by the workers and the workers must agree to a confidentially clause.

So far the sacked Belfast airport workers have had to endure an anti-union employer, a sell out union official, paramilitary death threats and must now endure another hunger and thirst strike.


Fintan Canavan, the Solicitor who has been involved in negotiating with the union, and who can confirm that they have reneged on the commitments they gave to end the April hunger strike, can be contacted at 028 9024 5471

Issued by Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer 15th May 2008

Gordon McNeill can be contacted at 07934632366

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Thu May 15, 2008 19:15author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comReport this post to the editors

maybe this will be posted this time, Gordan McNeil and others get endless space here to make comments and assertions that go unquestioned and to insinuate serious things that they will not say. This all goes to paint a totally false picture of events to readers of this site. In the interest of fairness I would ask a few questions that might provide clarity to fair minded observers wondering whats going on here, simple answers to the questions as listed, not speeches and spin, would be appreciated

1. Was Tony Woodley the General Secretary of Unite when this problem arose?

2. Was Jimmy Kelly the Regional Secretary when this problem arose?

3. If not who was?

4. If not are the people involved at the time involved in Unite now?

5. Is the Official who done the lads in employed by Unite now?

6. When did these alleged death threats occur?

7. Are the 3 lads hinting that Jimy Kelly or Officials or staff of Unite, currently employed, are involved in this?

8. Where the current incumbents of the various relevant positions, including Jimmy Kelly, in position when these alleged threats were issued?

9. Are the three lads members of Unite?

10. Can the lads post a letter from their Solicitor stating that he is unpaid and that the representatives for the coming appeal will be unpaid?

11. How much 'compensation' do the 3 lads want out of Unites members money to resolve this issue?

perhaps clear answers to these simple questions might bring some clarity, objectivity and fairness to this issue and help observers to understand the issues fully.

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