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Sacked Workers Recommence Hunger Strike at Unite offices

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | feature author Friday May 16, 2008 11:34author by Jolly Red Giant - SP/CWI Report this post to the editors

Socialist Party claim that Unite renege on deal

featured image
Previous protest at Belfast airport

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 protesters, 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.


"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 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.

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 10:56author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report 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.

author by Answering Machinepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 13:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Many of the "questions" put by our pro-bureaucrat friend above have been answered repeatedly on this site and elsewhere. Simply from previous indymedia coverage I can answer most of them. Of course, our friend of the bureaucrats is well aware that there is no mystery behind most of these questions. He is simply posting them up in an attempt to throw mud at some very brave men and women who have been thoroughly shafted by a succession of union leaders.

Just in case anyone is distracted by this nonsense:

The current top Unite officials were not in place when the union leadership undermined the airport workers strike. A previous set of bureaucrats was. The current crowd have been in place for: years of refusal to rectify the previous horrific actions of the union bureaucracy, endless broken promises, the calling of the cops on the men while they protested, an attempt to force the sacked strikers to accept a terrible deal. The initial incident happened on someone else's watch. The years since happened on theirs. Meet the new bureaucrats, the same as the old ones.

As for the rest of the issues raised, those concerning the death threats and so on, I don't know the details although regarding your last question, it has been made clear by the men that the compensation issue should be determined by negotiation. Perhaps the sacked workers will have the time to answer you on the rest of these details when their current protest outside union offices is over. Assuming of course that the current bureaucracy (yes, the current lot, not the lot they replaced a long time ago) doesn't allow their health to be damaged irreparably in the meantime.

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 13:46author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

all organisations of size have bureaucracies, especially one with 2 million members, your rhetoric and use of such terms betrays the paucity of your logic and your naivety

now, I know you won't like this 'comrade' but some facts

Tony Woodley wasn't the General Secretary, Bill Morris was

Jimmy Kelly wasn't the Regional Secretary, or Mick O'Reilly even, Jimmy Elsby then Brendan Hodgers were

The Official who did the undoubtedly dirty deed was Joe McCusker, long since left the ATGWU and never ever an employee of Unite

The 'death threats' are alleged to have happened years ago, before Jimmy Kelly was put in position

Jimmy Kelly is in position less than a year, not 'years'

you don't like Jimmy Kelly because he is in the SWP, a pathetic side show of a party like the Socialist party is a pathetic side show of a party

this is a squabble among two irrelevant parties of the far left, nothing more, nothing less

it is damaging to all real trade unionsits who live in the real world

the only person damaging gordan mcneils health is gordan mcneill, soemthing he should be big enough to take responsibility for himself instead of always looking for somebody else to blame.

was there wrong done to the three lads? absolutely there was

welcome to planet earth, a place where bad things, sometimes really really bad things, happen like cancer and pain, and suffering, and hurt, and death

stop playing politics with peoples injustices and lives,

author by Answering Machinepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 14:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

And there we have it. It didn't take long for our pro-bureaucrat friend to move from talking blandly about posing questions in the name of "clarity, objectivity and fairness" to this ranting spew of bile.

I'm left wondering if "bigjimlarkin" is, like Kelly, himself a member of Unite's unelected bureaucracy or if he is an unpaid supporter. I suppose it makes little difference. Everyone who has been following the issue is quite aware that Kelly, Woodley and the rest of the current crop of bureaucrats came to power after the original sackings. Equally, everyone is aware that Woodley has been in position since 2003, while Kelly, his chief Irish underling, has been Irish secretary for a year and before that was President of the Union.

Let me repeat: Woodley has been in position for five years. Kelly has been in one of the top jobs for years also, currently Irish secretary previously as union President. During the period of years when these men and their allies in the allegedly "left" wing of the bureaucracy have run the union: Unite has tried to force the men to accept an astoundingly shoddy deal with the employers. They have left the men to fight their court case - which resulted in a significant ruling for all workers - alone, without union support. The union has broken endless promises. The cops have been called on the workers while they protest. And still, the union bureaucracy refuses to deal with the outstanding issues. Meet the new bureaucrats - the same as the old bureaucrats.

The idea that this is a row between the Socialist Party and the SWP is another red herring, deliberately introduced to distract from the men's entirely justified struggle against the bureaucracy. It is certainly true that supporters of the workers have been shocked by the sight of a prominent SWP member opposing them, but as you point out at some length, Kelly's prominence in the dispute is relatively recent. When he was President he certainly backed Woodley and the rest of the bureaucracy, but he wasn't their point man in Ireland. Yet the dispute has been going on for many years now. I don't think that the Socialist Party or any of the other people supporting the sacked workers have the prescience or the Machiavellian skills to manufacture a dispute and support those involved in it tirelessly for years on end, on the off chance that some years later an SWP member would be in the front rank of their opponents.

As I said above, I don't know if you are actually an unelected bureaucrat defending his bosses or if you are just some hack looking for such a job some day. Either way, your attempts to throw mud won't work. I suggest that you scuttle back under your rock.

author by injymeejiapublication date Fri May 16, 2008 14:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

AN explanation for those who may not realise what this is really about- The Socialist Party are using this dispute to undermine the leadership of the Unite union, who support their great rivals, the Socialist Workers Party.

Hope no one gets hurt.

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 14:36author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

did you ever hear of balance or is propaganda all that works for you 'comrade'?

I think if anybody reads the above 4 posts it will be clear who the mud slinging comes from

of course the Socialist Party didnt manufacture this issue, the original injustice did and the union and the 3 lads perpetuated it. nobody is 100% in the right, or in the wrong here.

as for the socialist party? they just manipulate it for their own narrow interests and petty jealousies

if that is not the case why where these attacks not launched against Mick O'Reilly? he was Regional Secretary for 3 years.is it because is isnt a members of the SWP and so it wouldnt be as much fun for the lads to have a go at him?

who I work for is none of your business, if indeed I work at all, but I believe I am a trade unionist and as such I resent fringe parties playing with and damaging trade unionism for no purpose, and I also resent people in 'transport house' being accused of complicity in alleged death threats and kidnapping

to accuse decent working people of such and then accuse me of mud slinging?? beggars belief

author by Answering Machinepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 14:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Firstly, I'm no "comrade" of anyone who supports a union bureaucracy against sacked workers.

Secondly, there was nothing remotely unbalanced in what I wrote. Given that a bureaucrat or supporter of the bureaucracy has come to this site to smear sacked trade unionists while one of them is on hunger and thirst strike, the tone of my response to you was rather mild. Most other people here would be markedly less polite to you than I was.

I note of course that you don't actually engage with anything I wrote. You don't deny that Woodley has been in charge of the union for five years of this dispute or that Kelly has been his chief Irish underling for a year and was one of his main underlings in Britain before that. You don't deny that this dispute has been going on for years under their watch. You don't deny the failure of the union leadership to settle this dispute. You don't deny the broken promises, the cops being called, the attempt to bounce the workers into accepting a dismal deal with the employers or the fact that the current union leaders left them to fight their legal battle alone. You don't deny it, because you can't. It's all true.

This dispute with the union bureaucracy has gone on for many years now. At first, when "regime change" occurred in UNITE, it appeared that the new bureaucrats would at least attempt to deal fairly with the workers. Things have become increasingly bitter as it became more and more clear that, as I've said above, the new bureaucrats are much the same as the old ones.

As we are all aware, the Socialist Party and other supporters of the workers within the labour movement didn't create this issue. All they've done is their duty as socialists, trade unionists and decent human beings in supporting the sacked workers through thick and thin. We should expect no less from anyone.

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 14:59author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I accept the 3 lads were wronged if u read my posts

I accept the union continue to be wrong if you read my posts as you clearly cant be bothered to

I believe the 3 lads are also wrong,I think the hunger strike tactic is a total disgrace to the movement

I do not think anybody should engage such tactics against a workers collective

Unite is a workers collective

I accept the 3 lads should not be out of pocket or have any costs

I do not want any of my money, as a Unite member, being paid in compensation

you see I 'comrade', unlike you, see right and wrong on both sides

its that planet earth concept again you see, reality rather than ideology

author by Answering Machinepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 15:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have indeed been reading your posts, although I am increasingly wondering why I bother to. You alternate between vicious attacks on the sacked workers and their supporters and a kind of faux-even handedness. Even the latter part of your routine is deeply objectionable because it pretends that the workers and the bureaucrats who continue to screw them over are both equally wrong, when in fact this matter is a very simple case of a group of workers struggling against an employer which sacked them and a union bureaucracy which first aided the employers and then abandoned the workers.

I am glad to hear that you think that the union should cover the men's legal costs, at this massively belated date. Perhaps you should get on the phone to Kelly and Woodley and tell them that (or alternatively, just shout upstairs to one of them). As for the issue of compensation, it seems to me as I suspect it does to most people, very obvious that a union which helped a company sack a group of workers should compensate them for that crime against trade unionism and elementary human decency.

On the issue of the hunger strike, you seem unaware that amongst the large group of people who have supported the workers, the Socialist Party has consistently advised the men against that tactic. However, it is the sacked workers own dispute and those who support them respect their right to choose their own tactics and will continue to give whatever aid is possible to them.

I should of course point out that this reluctance to use the hunger strike tactic has nothing to do with any newly coined principle that it is illegitimate to use that tactic against a "workers collective" (actually, a highly bureaucratised workers collective controlled by a layer of mostly unelected and overpaid officials at the top). Instead some of the workers supporters have counselled against it because the union bureaucrats are quite likely to be callous enough to allow significant harm to be done to the men's health rather than do the decent thing.

author by lisbon67@hotmail.com - unitepublication date Fri May 16, 2008 15:22author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

insofar as is possible on here I think people who read this story and the comments from both of us will now have a fairer and wider perspective on the issues at play here

that was my sole reason for posting and many issues have now been clarified, thank you indymedia for that at least

finally I never viciously attacked the 3 lads, in any post.I do think they share the blame in this by their tactics and besmirching the names of everybody in Transport House with the scurrilous statements yesterday about alleged death threats emanating from there. I also think the focus on compensation is, at best, grubby

The Union however are primarily to blame, that is undoubted

in any event Im away off to have my dinner and if the 3 lads have any sense they'll do the same, nobody responds to blackmail lads, even when they are wrong

great to see the movement is in such great hands socialist party!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

author by Peter Hadden - Socialist Partypublication date Fri May 16, 2008 22:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

.
In reply to the questions posed by “BigJimLarkin” on his original posting, the sacked airport shop stewards have always been careful to stick to the facts of what has happened. To say that they are “insinuating things that they will not say” is itself an unsubstantiated insinuation which is, to say the least, unhelpful at this critical stage
The answer to most of “BigJim’s” questions are already there in the material the airport workers have produced over the years. But if there are still doubts and uncertainties it is worth recapping on these points.
Who is responsible?
Six years ago, when the airport workers were stitched up by the T&GWU because they rocked the boat of the all too close relationship between the union and the airport, the union was under the witchhunting leadership of Bill Morris. Mick O’Reilly and Eugene McGlone were then on the receiving end and had been ousted from their positions.
The people who dealt with the airport dispute at that time have either retired or moved sideways, all with full pensions and, in some cases compensation. Joe McCusker, the official who directly intrigued with ICTS, has retired with his pension and a good enough reference to secure him a job as a conciliation officer! in the Labour Relations Agency.
Meanwhile Gordon McNeill and Chris Bowyer have been out of work for six years; their unanswered job applications testify to the fact that they are now blacklisted. Madan Gupta has got a job in the City airport. He still has to work at 73 years of age to pay the debts from the legal case that Tony Woodley left them to fight on their own.
The people who were around six years ago are mostly gone, replaced by a leadership, Tony Woodley included, who championed the cause of the airport workers while they were in opposition, but very quickly dropped them once they took over the reins.
Those now in charge would have us believe that this whole dispute is just a hangover from the Morris days, while they have nothing to answer. The material issued by the airport workers explains in detail why this version of events just will not do.
The legal fees
Specifically Gordon McNeill is now on hunger and thirst strike because Tony Woodley has gone back on all the promises he, with Jimmy Kelly at his side, made to the shop stewards last September. He promised to pay the legal fees and to make an offer of compensation.
Eight months on the fees are unpaid. No offer has been made. The latest development on this came this morning when their solicitor informed them that the union was not budging either on the outstanding fees or on the costs of defending the Appeal by ICTS against the Tribunal decision.
Their solicitor and barrister now say that, because of this, they are going to walk from the case leaving the shop stewards to represent themselves. If this situation does not change – and it will only change when Tony Woodley commits to paying their costs – the likelihood is that ICTS will win the Appeal, courtesy of an own goal scored by Tony Woodley.
For millions of trade unionists this means that the added protection provided by the Tribunal judgement will be gone. For the shop stewards it also means that they will lose the money awarded them by the Tribunal which at them moment is held by the Court pending the appeal decision.
There is no good reason for the union’s prevarication on this. It is not a question of “protecting members money”. After all, if the Appeal is won - and the legal advice is that if properly defended it likely will be won - costs will be awarded against ICTS - an incentive you would think for the union to employ a good barrister and do so as quickly as possible to give them time to prepare the case.
As for the outstanding legal bill, there has been no movement at all on this since last autumn. 40,000 pounds which the workers have paid from their own pockets is being held by their solicitors, who are pursuing them for another 60,000.
“Big Jim” asks what level of compensation the shop stewards are demanding. They know they have a watertight legal case against Unite but have informed the union that they will not be taking the legal route. They have done this for two reasons. First and foremost, as trade unionists they don’t want to take the union to court. Secondly they have no money to pay the extravagant costs of any court action.
Their solicitors had advised them that they could claim huge damages in court but they have no intention of going down this road. Instead they have dismissed the legal team that would have handled this case and are saying to the union – deal with us directly.
Isn’t it quite comical how high paid senior officials, when confronted with a demand for redress from low paid workers whose lives have been turned upside down by the treachery of union officials, suddenly become the number one guardians of “the members money”? If they are really so concerned with costs the first thing they could do is get rid of the legal teams on all sides and negotiate a deal.
Rather than do this they keep repeating the mantra – “let the legal teams sort it out”. That shows how far they are removed from the reality of the position of extreme hardship the shop stewards find themselves in. The shop stewards have no money to keep their solicitor on board. Every delay and prevarication on the part of the union – and there have been too many to count - costs them more solicitors time and that costs them money they do not have.
As to the amount they are looking for - all they have said is; “make us an offer.” Despite promise after promise that an offer will come by this deadline or that, they are still waiting.
The death threats
These are not “alleged” death threats. What happened has been reported both to the union and to the police.
The threats were issued in 2003. They came in the period immediately after the sacked workers unanimously rejected the rotten deal that had been negotiated with ICTS by Tony Woodley. Bill Morris was not involved with the dispute at this time.
The workers were threatened twice. On one occasion two of the shop stewards were taken from their car at gunpoint and put in the back of a van. They were told to back off from the dispute or else. They can only surmise that this threat came from a paramilitary group, but do not know which group was involved or on whose behalf they were acting.
The second threat came in the form of threatening letters sent to their homes. The letter showed photos of the shop stewards (taken outside Transport House) along with a death threat. The evidence that points to these having been sent from someone within Transport House relates to way in which the letter to Madan Gupta was addressed.
Were these threats issued by someone currently working in Transport House? That question is not for the shop stewards to answer; it is a question that should properly be addressed to the leadership of the union. The fact that threats were issued is not news to the Unite leadership, nor are the details of what happened.
In 2004 the union held an inquiry into the airport dispute. The issue of the death threats was reported to the inquiry and is recorded in the report of the proceedings. Jimmy Kelly was not a full time official when the threats were made, nor at the time of the inquiry. However he was made aware of the threats last summer when Madan Gupta reported what had happened and the shop stewards showed him one of the threatening letters.
The recent material from the shop stewards merely reports the facts of what happened, just as they have already reported them to the union leadership and to the police. The question that must be asked, now that Unite’s backsliding and intransigence is focusing attention on this dispute, is what have the Unite leadership done about these serious allegations? Have they had an investigation to try to establish what happened? Or have they effectively just shrugged their shoulders and done nothing?
Are they members?
Gordon and Chris have informed Tony Woodley that they are withholding their subs in protest at the treatment they have received but will pay back the full arrears when the issue is resolved. Madan is the Unite rep in the City airport and has successfully stopped workers there from leaving to join another union over the way he has been mistreated.
Tony Woodley has accepted that they are still members. But whether they are or not is neither here nor there to the rights and wrongs of this dispute. Not many people would continue to pay subs to an organisation that had treated them in this way.
Jimmy Kelly
I am told that some people are alleging that this whole issue is really a spat between the Socialist Party and the SWP and that the airport workers are just being used by the Socialist Party to have a go at Jimmy Kelly. Anyone who even thinks in these terms must live in a festering sectarian cocoon.
What is this but the same argument that is used endlessly by employers: that disputes are caused by “agitators” and “militants” stirring up workers and not by real grievances. Whoever thinks Gordon McNeill would put his life at risk, to score some points on the SWP, or would allow himself to be manipulated by someone else who wants to do so, is not living in the real world.
For the record the Socialist Party have consistently tried to persuade the airport workers not to engage in hunger strikes; never mind hunger and thirst strikes. I have spent many hours since the agreed April 30 deadline for a resolution passed with no offer and no movement from Unite trying to persuade Gordon not to go on hunger strike.
I have tried to persuade him that what has happened is not worth him sacrificing his health, never mind his life. Gordon has agreed with me that it is almost ruled out that this intransigent Unite leadership will respond to a hunger strike until someone is either dead or in a coma, but he has still gone ahead.
True to form the Unite leaders have reacted by refusing all talks until the protest has been called off. This is the message that has come from Tony Woodley through Jimmy Kelly. The union won’t talk because there is a protest – but when there is no protest they don’t talk. For the airport workers it’s a catch 22 situation.
Despite this hard nosed attitude I will continue to try to persuade Gordon to come off and to argue with Madan and Chris that they should not take his place as they have threatened to do, but I don’t hold out much hope of success. The Unite leadership may find out that when you put someone in a position where they feel they have nothing left to lose you make a very dangerous enemy.
Finally, can Jimmy Kelly be held responsible for what is happening? There is no doubt that the main author of this intransigence is Tony Woodley. The question for Jimmy Kelly, who has been present at the discussions with the shop stewards over the past eight months, is why is he standing over this injustice. If he thinks the union should stand by the promises it has made he should speak out. The membership in Ireland expect more of their Regional Secretary than that he should be a courier and a left cover for Tony Woodley.
If he broke ranks and said the union should immediately meet the three commitments made last September he might just be able to resolve this. Jimmy Kelly has the opportunity to emerge with genuine credit from this situation. But if all he does is echo Tony Woodley he will make himself part responsible for what may happen.

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Sat May 17, 2008 15:51author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

this post is a valuable and more balanced description of events than the one sided account that began this story

maybe the socialist party will now continue to be more responsible and balanced in their reporting of the issue and what they expect to happen

and as I said throughout a genuine grievance has arisen, of a serious nature, that unite must rectify. there is no doubt that what happened to the 3 lads is a disgraceful episode in the unions history

Gordan McNeill is acting extremely irresponsibly by his action though, and I pray to god that he calls of his ridiculous hunger and thirst strike. nothing that has happened justifies such extreme measures and therefore in the event of anything happening to Mr. McNeill the responsibility will rest solely with him.If he doesn't care enough about himself he should stop this now for the sake of his family and children

author by Unite memberpublication date Sat May 17, 2008 17:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is the most demoralising chapter that i have ever witnessed in the labour movement.

As a member i would urge the leadership in Ireland and Tony Woodley in Britain to bring this this thing to a close for everyones sake. Make a serious offer re compensation it's the least these men deserve and its not 'grubby'. The union (previous leadership) lost them their jobs and betrayed them. the current leadership as well as inheriting all of the positives about the union also inherited this issue and now need to deal with it. As a union member in northern ireland I would also urge the union to move might and main to fight the company's appeal and defend the ruling.

I don't agree with hunger strike as a tactic and really really hope that Gordan stops, but do I understand it? Yes. Clearly they have done everything in their power to resolve this issue and feel they got nowhere - it must seem like they only way they can have an impact is by taking such extreme action - they have been driven to this point.

It is Saturday afternoon now - i don't know how long someone can last on thirst strike but clearly it can't be long - Unite have to put aside the side issues of leaders reputations etc. and give a firm public committment to these men and I really hope they do.

author by solidarity seekerpublication date Sat May 17, 2008 21:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Big Jim" above makes much of the fact that when this issue started the current UNITE leadreship were not in place. It was in fact Lord Morris (as he now is) and others who are to blame. I find this a pretty lame excuse, as the current situation is due to the breaking of promices made LAST MONTH. This is an issue fairly and squarely at the door of the current UNITE leadership. Unfortunately I have to say this is an issue that they have dealt with in a shameful manner, and in a way that brings shame on the trade union movement.
I can understand why people have affinities for their own union and find it difficult when it seems their union is under attack. However there is no point in burying ones head in the sand to the fact that Trade union leaderships are moving further and futher away from the people they represent. As witnessed by the previous T&G leader who now is part of the establishment.
The other major point on this issue is that by their actions UNITE are putting in jeapardy the historic victory won by the 3 sacked workers (Now under appeal) that they were sacked for their Trade Union activity. A ruling that all the employers will love to see quashed, and now it seems it won't be defended. How can UNITE justify that??

author by xpublication date Sun May 18, 2008 09:54author email belfastairportworkers at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Either the Unite leadership will give me justice or I will die" Gordon McNeill

Gordon McNeill is now on the fourth day of a hunger and thirst strike outside Transport House in Belfast.

His health is deteriorating rapidly and visibly. A healthy person might expect to live a week or so without food and water. Gordon suffers from a heart condition and has not recovered from the previous five day hunger and thirst strike at the start of April. He has already reached a critical stage.

Gordon has made it clear that he will refuse medical treatment if he is hospitalised.

"I am going to see this through to the end. Either the Unite leadership will give me justice or I will die. That is what it has come down to. Some Unite officials have been in contact with me but all they are offering are the same assurances that they have offered countless times in the past and have then reneged on.

"The conclusion I have drawn from all this backsliding is the Unite General Secretary Tony Woodley never had any intention of giving us justice. They have not paid our legal bills as promised. They have not paid for legal representation for the Appeal case which could overturn the important legal victory we won for the trade union movement. They have not offered a single penny in compensation.

"I made clear when I started on Thursday that this would be the last protest and I am even more determined now that it will be. The onus now is on the Unite leadership to act with haste to implement the promises they have made but have repeatedly broken"

Contact Gordon McNeill on 07934632366

Related Link: http://www.belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com
author by xpublication date Sun May 18, 2008 13:22author email belfastairportworkers at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Day 5 Hunger & Thirst Strike

Justice for the Sacked Belfast Airport Workers

RALLY 1pm Monday 19th May
Transport House, High St, Belfast

Sign the online petition through the link below

PDF Document Download the poster and display at work in Belfast first thing in the morning 0.04 Mb


Related Link: http://www.belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com
author by The Diggerpublication date Mon May 19, 2008 12:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Digger notes that according to latest inside reports, Unite has reportedly now told the protesters that no further talks will be held with them until they publicly verify all the monies that have been paid to each individual from the union coffers!
Apparently the three protesters do not wish to account for the money paid to them as it would diminish their arguments.
It's time for some clarification on this matter.

author by fpublication date Mon May 19, 2008 15:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gordon McNeill has just been taken to hospital. further details to follow

Related Link: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/
author by xpublication date Mon May 19, 2008 19:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ricky Tomlinson speaks out in "full support" of the hunger strikers

Jimmy McGovern also confirms his support

Gordon McNeill close to losing consciousness – an ambulance called

Support for the shop steward now on hunger strike at Transport House is mushrooming.

Well known actor Ricky Tomlinson today spoke out in support. "I give my full support to the shop stewards. I myself spent twenty days on hunger strike in prison and have some idea what Gordon McNeill is going through.

The Unite leadership must make good the promises they made and must do so immediately to prevent a tragedy taking place."

Prominent playwright, Jimmy McGovern has also spoken out: "Remember the way the TGWU betrayed the Liverpool dockers? I bet you thought no union could ever sink so low again. I did too. We were wrong. The way in Unite has treated the Belfast Airport workers is a disgrace. Unite's leaders should hang their heads in shame."

At a lunchtime rally at Transport House Tony Maguire brought the support of the Northern Ireland Region of the Fire Brigades Union and Frank Bunting, Regional Secretary of INTO gave his support.

Meanwhile an ambulance has been called for Gordon McNeill whose condition is now extremely critical. He has said he will continue to refuse food in hospital.

LATEST - Gordon McNeill has rejoined protest at Transport House

author by fpublication date Mon May 19, 2008 20:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pics

Gordon and Chris
Gordon and Chris

Gordon going into ambulance
Gordon going into ambulance

Fire Brigade lifting Gordon down
Fire Brigade lifting Gordon down

author by martinapublication date Tue May 20, 2008 01:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm reading comments here that are trying to portray that Jimmy Kelly is some kind of innocent in this situation.

I am a member of Amicus/Unite in Northern Ireland.I have been trying to deal with my own problem with this Union for over a year. I was dealing with Peter williamson and Derek Simpson. Now I'm dealing with Jimmy Kelly and Derek Simpson. The names change but the treatment is the same.

In my case my union rep was involved in colluding with my empolyer to cover up not only what happened to me but to cover up the culture of bullying and harassment at my employer. My Union rep engaged in very serious behaviour throughout my case to help my employer and now works with them to help cover up what went on.

I am off work on sick leave for four years due to the bullying and harassment I suffered at work . My career is finished. My Union Rep is equally responsible for this.

I have attempted to go through all the proper channels to make a formal complaint after a year of being ignored. Amicus/Unite will not even read my document of allegations against my union Rep saying that my complaints are without foundation and that my Union Rep will not be investigated. That happened this week.

I find it heartbreaking that these men have to go through this not just because I fully understand the distress and damage this has caused them but also because I know that the route they have gone down is the only route open to me.

Unions should not be allowed to mislead people when they are in their most vulnerable situations and then betray them by working for the employer instead of them. It makes a nonsense of all this socialist party/socialist workers party/Union labels when all they are doing is betraying ordinary working people to support the employer.

Martina

author by Socialist Partypublication date Tue May 20, 2008 10:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"What will it take for the Unite leadership to deal fairly with Gordon NcNeill and the Belfast Airport Workers.

It is a fundamental principal of trade unionism to support workers in struggle. This situation should never have been allowed to develop. Tony Woodley, the General Secretary, should intervene now to resolve the situation in favour of Gordon and his comrades”

Ken Loach

author by che_jesus - sppublication date Thu May 22, 2008 10:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

sign the online petition in support of these workers

Related Link: http://gopetition.co.uk/petitions/justice-for-sacked-belfast-airport-workers.html
author by Support Belfast Airport Workerspublication date Thu May 22, 2008 10:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Rally to support the Belfast Airport Workers

1pm Friday 23rd May
Transport House

Please pass on the word.

Related Link: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/
author by fpublication date Thu May 22, 2008 11:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

please print off and spread the word

Rally 1pm Fri 23rd May
Rally 1pm Fri 23rd May

PDF Document pdf 0.04 Mb


Related Link: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/
author by fpublication date Thu May 22, 2008 12:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tomorrow's rally will be postponed to allow time for the union to sort this out

author by fpublication date Fri May 23, 2008 10:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Legal bills understood to be paid – Unite promise to make compensation offer

Decision whether to recommence the hunger strike under review.

The sacked airport shop stewards, Gordon McNeill and Chris Bowyer, who have been on hunger strike on the balcony outside Transport House suspended their action at 9 am this morning.

The men have come off the Transport House balcony. Gordon McNeill, who went five days without food and water and a further three days without food, was suffering from chest pains and had to be assisted off. Chris Bowyer has been suffering bowel problems. Both men have now gone for urgent medical assistance.

The hunger strikers had made clear earlier in the week that they would temporarily suspend the hunger strike if the union made good its promise to pay outstanding legal bills and to cover the costs of legal representation for the Court of Appeal case now pending.

The shop stewards now understand that the legal bills are now being paid and the terms on which barristers will be engaged to handle the appeal have been agreed. All that remains is the outstanding issue of compensation and the protest has been suspended to allow urgent discussions on this.

Gordon McNeill today said:

"We are pleased that Unite now appears to have paid our legal costs and that we can now have a legal team in place for the appeal.

"We have suspended our action because we said that if Unite showed good faith by paying these bills, we would allow a space for an offer on compensation to be made and negotiated.

"I expect Unite to act with urgency on this so that I will be able to announce a final settlement of this long running issue. This will depend on them offering an amount of compensation that realistically reflects the six years of hardship and suffering that our families and ourselves have been put through."

END
For more information contact:
Gordon McNeill - 07934632366
Chris Bowyer - 07764850945
Madan Gupta - 07810290938

author by G - nonepublication date Fri May 23, 2008 12:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is just nonsense- the legal bills were paid- as far as i was aware- and that is only right but the compensation? Rubbish.

author by Supporterpublication date Fri May 23, 2008 14:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

G - None - it is your comment that is nonsense - the legal bills had not been paid, read the workers statement, stop attempting to spread lies.

author by impartial observer - ordinary member of UNITEpublication date Sat May 24, 2008 01:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The lads are on a hunger strike for a £1million each compensation. That's our union dues. I don't deny the guys were done down by a rightwing dog, but they are way over the top with their compensation claim. Our union has paid their legal fees, that was never in doubt. This hunger strike is an awful carry on. These guys may have support on this site, but not within the union.

author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist Partypublication date Sat May 24, 2008 12:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You are far from an impartial observer. I doubt that you are even an ordinary Unite member as you claim. Your brief post is an insult to the Belfast Airport Workers, and its few sentences contain deliberate lies and slander.
The airport workers legal fees were incurred fighting and winning a battle that has blown a hole in Thatcher's anti-union laws, a battle by the way which Tony Woodley told the workers they couldn't win and his advice was to walk away and give up their fight!
Agreement by the union leadership to pay these fees has only happened in the last 48 hours and has only happened because of the continued campaign by the men.
T&GWU full time officials, including a previous general secretary were involved in a conspiracy with ICTS to get the Airport Workers sacked. Unite T&G leaders are as culpable in the injustice that was perpetrated against these men as ICTS and therefore OWE these men financially compensation for this injustice which has left two of them blacklisted and unable to get work.
The Belfast Airport Workers are NOT asking for £1 million compensation from the union, or a sum anything like that amount. If you are concerned about "the members money" then you should direct your questions to the Unite T&G leaders who have squandered tens of thousands of pounds of the unions money on legal fees trying to stop the airport workers from achieving justice. Then ask them about their huge salaries and expense accounts!!!!
Then maybe you might demand that the Unite leadership hold an enquiry into this shameful affair and it can be fully exposed who is to blame for the treachery perpetrated against the Belfast Airport Workers.

author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist Partypublication date Sat May 24, 2008 12:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For the latest information go to
http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/

author by Interestedpublication date Tue May 27, 2008 16:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

http://www.wsm.ie/news_viewer/3953
says INTO sent their support- where did they do this- I can't find anything on their website?

Related Link: http://www.wsm.ie/news_viewer/3953
author by fpublication date Tue May 27, 2008 22:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Unite are trying to deny us our democratic right to peacefully protest." Gordon McNeill

The dispute between the sacked airport shop stewards and their union, Unite, was dramatically escalated this afternoon.

Sacked shop steward, Gordon McNeill, who is on the thirteenth day of a hunger strike, was served with a court injunction brought by the union baring him from continuing to protest "in or at Transport House". The injunction makes clear that, if any of the three shop stewards involved in the protest, Gordon McNeill, Chris Bowyer and Madan Gupta, continue to protest they may face fines, seizure of assets and/or imprisonment.

Gordon McNeill has responded by escalating his protest from a hunger strike to a hunger and thirst strike. Gordon commented:

"Trade union members are used to employers serving injunctions to stop pickets and other protests. Now it is our union who are using the law to try to take away our right to protest.

"Is it not enough that our union leadership got us sacked and then refused us support in our legal battle against our employer? Now they are threatening to use the courts to fine us, seize our assets and put us in prison in order to silence us. They are going to take away my democratic right to free speech.

"They should remember that the right to join unions was won by people like the Tolpuddle Martyrs who faced jail and deportation fighting the combination laws. I'm sure those early trade unionists would turn in their graves at the thought that the organisations they founded were led by people who would threaten their own members with imprisonment for daring to take protest action.

"We have every right to continue our peaceful and dignified protest demanding justice from our union. My response to this latest intimidation is to escalate my protest from a hunger strike to a hunger and thirst strike. I will not take fluids until I am convinced that Unite Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, will not persist with this threat of court action."

author by curious - nonepublication date Wed May 28, 2008 08:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I see that as well on http://www.wsm.ie/news_viewer/3953
that the INTO sent their support. I'd like to see where they did this?
I can't find anything on their website either and I don't remember anyone talking about it. Could Belfast wsm or someone else from wsm point me towards where the INTO called for support?
Thanks

Related Link: http://www.wsm.ie/news_viewer/3953
author by fpublication date Wed May 28, 2008 09:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

PRESS RELEASE - Tuesday 27th May

Unite union serves injunction and threatens protesting shop stewards with fines and imprisonment

"Unite are trying to deny us our democratic right to peacefully protest." Gordon McNeill

The dispute between the sacked airport shop stewards and their union, Unite, was dramatically escalated this afternoon.

Sacked shop steward, Gordon McNeill, who is on the thirteenth day of a hunger strike, was served with a court injunction brought by the union baring him from continuing to protest "in or at Transport House". The injunction makes clear that, if any of the three shop stewards involved in the protest, Gordon McNeill, Chris Bowyer and Madan Gupta, continue to protest they may face fines, seizure of assets and/or imprisonment.

Gordon McNeill has responded by escalating his protest from a hunger strike to a hunger and thirst strike. Gordon commented:

"Trade union members are used to employers serving injunctions to stop pickets and other protests. Now it is our union who are using the law to try to take away our right to protest.

"Is it not enough that our union leadership got us sacked and then refused us support in our legal battle against our employer? Now they are threatening to use the courts to fine us, seize our assets and put us in prison in order to silence us. They are going to take away my democratic right to free speech.

"They should remember that the right to join unions was won by people like the Tolpuddle Martyrs who faced jail and deportation fighting the combination laws. I'm sure those early trade unionists would turn in their graves at the thought that the organisations they founded were led by people who would threaten their own members with imprisonment for daring to take protest action.

"We have every right to continue our peaceful and dignified protest demanding justice from our union. My response to this latest intimidation is to escalate my protest from a hunger strike to a hunger and thirst strike. I will not take fluids until I am convinced that Unite Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, will not persist with this threat of court action."

Related Link: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/
author by fpublication date Wed May 28, 2008 10:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Irish News Text
Staff barred from Building
Three sacked Belfast International airport workers have been served with a court injunction, barring them from continuing to protest at Belfast’s Transport house. Gordon McNeill, who has been on hunger strike since May 15, was served with the injunction yesterday afternoon. Mr McNeill and fellow shop stewards Chris Bowyer and Madan Gupta have been told if they continue to protest they could face fines, seizure of assets and imprisonment. The men were sacked by security firm ICTS. They are protesting because they say their union, Unite, should pay for the full legal costs of their appeal case.

Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror

Irish News
Irish News

Belfast Telegraph
Belfast Telegraph

Related Link: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/
author by fpublication date Wed May 28, 2008 11:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The letter that Tony Woodley chose to ignore

One year ago (12 June 2007) Gordon McNeill wrote a letter to Tony Woodley offering a way to resolve all the differences between the airport workers and the union. The letter was also sent to other T&GWU officials in Ireland, including Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly.

The letter was written immediately after the Fair Employment Tribunal hearing was completed but before the Tribunal had reached a decision. It was written in anticipation of the Tribunal finding in the workers favour and offered the union a change to get on board before the finding was announced.

As the letter says: “It would in my view, be an extremely positive message to send out to the trade union movement as a whole, that you as our union, backed us fully in our final push for justice. There is in my view a real opportunity to have one of the most effective recruitment moments in the history of our union through our dispute with ICTS……”

Had the Unite leadership responded positively to this offer all that has happened in the past year, including the current hunger strike, could have been avoided.

Sadly neither Tony Woodley nor Jimmy Kelly never replied to this genuine attempt to resolve the differences and use the airport workers’ victory to build the union.

We publish the full text of Gordon McNeill’s letter to allow Unite members and other trade unionists to see who the unreasonable party is in this long running dispute.

WITHOUT PREJUDICE BOTH PARTIES

Gordon McNeill

25 Summerfield Street

Ballymena

Co. Antrim

N. Ireland

BT43 7DP

12th June 2007

FAO

GENERAL SECRETARY

TONY WOODLEY

T&G/UNITE UNION

Dear General Secretary,

I the above named write to you in a common spirit, which I believe to be in both our interests as fellow Trade Unionists.

As you are in no doubt aware, I have been in dispute with my former Employer namely ICTS UK Ltd. for exactly five years now.

I have just finished my full tribunal hearing case with same, in the Fair Employment Tribunal Court, Belfast on the 8th June 07 in that I have alleged Political Opinion Discrimination as a Trade Union Shop Steward, and that Trade Unionism in its self is a viable political opinion which can not be open to discrimination by ruthless employers.

If the said Tribunal holds my view, and finds in my favour, it will have the potential to change the entire face of anti-trade union laws in the United Kingdom

It is in this spirit of such a potential MONUMENTAL moment in the history of the Trade Union Movement, I’m offering you the proverbial “Olive Branch” in order that we may try and reach a positive conclusion, in trying to end the long running hostilities we as both parties seem to have for each other at the moment.

I would rather air our differences in private and try to reach an accommodation between ourselves, without the need to quote “wash our dirty linen in public” unquote. I believe the only people whom will benefit in fight within the courts system between ourselves, is the very people we as Trade Unionists, oppose…… Employers……the members will not understand all the personalities involved, or the depth of feeling between us, all they will see is a divided house.

That is why I seek to talk with you first.

It would in my view, be an extremely positive message to send to the Trade Union Movement as a whole, that you as you as our Union backed us fully in our final push for justice. There is in my view a real opportunity to have one of the most effective recruitment moments in the history of our union through our dispute with ICTS, and I urge you to seize upon this very important fact, that puts its members before personalities, if you follow my understanding.

In coming straight to the point, and all personalities aside, there is a small window of time of approx, two weeks, before the Court delivers its decision, and I would love to be in a position to be able to say we are all acting with one voice in this matter should we win.

If we win Political Discrimination, there will be a massive media interest as it will effect the whole UK, and on a personal note I would much rather be in a position to be saying positive things about the Unions, as opposed to being drawn into negativity and recriminations which in my view as Trade Unionists is not what I want, we need to show united front….

There is no point in trying to ignore the elephant in the living room as it were, lol lol, attempt at humour, lol lol.

I have issues with you as a Union, and am sure you, have issues with me also, but in putting the testosterone to the side for a moment, I think it in the much wider interests of the entire Trade Union Movement for us to meet up and explore the possibility (of) finding common ground between us, I suspect there is more that unites us, than divides us….

If you are receiving this letter in the spirit it is being constructed in, and are agreeable to meeting up, it is totally without prejudice and pre-conditions. This is simply to see if we can bring to an end once and for all this very obvious and extremely protracted disagreement between ourselves, while we have been in dispute with what I can only describe as the most overtly, anti-Trade Union Employer I have ever seen in the United Kingdom, namely ICTS UK.

I trust you will give my request for talks a favourable hearing.

Yours, and still a fellow Trade Unionist,

Gordon McNeill

Let’s “jaw, jaw” Not “war war”, we are still brothers when all is said and done!

Cfi…..

Jimmy Kelly

Eugene McGlone

Des Henderson

Sean Smith

Related Link: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/
author by confusedpublication date Wed May 28, 2008 18:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An earlier statement from Gordon McNeill says they have been. Can someone put up a SHORT explanation of why the hunger strike continues..

author by Socialistpublication date Wed May 28, 2008 19:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dear Confused Jimmy Kelly has called the cops again to arrest the Airport Workers, why don't you phone him up about that!

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Wed May 28, 2008 19:04author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Transport House
102 High Street
BELFAST BT1 2DL

Tel: 028 90 232381
Fax: 028 90 329904

REGION 3 IRELAND

AT&G SECTION

28 May 2008

Setting the Record Straight

Our Union has deliberately stayed out of the publicity surrounding the dispute between the Transport and General Workers Union and Chris Bowyer – Madan Gupta and Gordon McNeill. We took this decision because we wanted to concentrate all of our efforts on having a genuine and sincere attempt at resolving this dispute, a dispute which originated nearly seven years ago and is inherited by this current leadership.

Since first taking up dealing with this dispute the leadership of Tony Woodley as General Secretary and Jimmy Kelly as Irish Regional Secretary has been totally committed to bringing this issue to an honourable resolution. All of the time working towards this goal with the invaluable support of our General Executive Council and the Irish Regional Committee.

The publicity campaign against our Union has at times been relentless through the use of widely circulated Anti Union emails on the Internet. There has been a completely unhelpful and at times sectarian involvement by socialist party members in Belfast with disgraceful Anti Union behaviour, including lies and personalised attacks on Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly. None of their publicity has presented the fact that we are genuinely working towards an acceptable and honourable resolution of this dispute. They have achieved an undermining of our Union and are being cheered on by local Employers who are only too happy to exploit this opportunity. Unfortunately some genuine and well meaning trade unionists have believed the lies that were spread on the internet.

The Union has also been subjected to threats of hunger strikes and the regional office in Belfast has been taken over through various protests. Using the threat of a hunger strike as a weapon or a tactic in a dispute like this against the Union is just not acceptable. Banners denigrating the good name of our Union have been erected on the front of the Union office. Our union members particularly those of us living and working in Belfast have been confronted with at times daily attacks on our Union. This is made all the more unacceptable because of the support, including financial support given to the three involved in this dispute by our union members in Belfast.

Legal Costs

We were asked by Bowyer/Gupta/McNeill to consider covering their legal costs associated with the Tribunal hearings in their case. We agreed to work towards doing this and as an act of good faith on our part we paid £106,000 up front to their Solicitors, Breslin McCormick in December 2007. We then entered into the normal legal costs process with their Solicitors. Throughout this costs process our Union has been subjected to occupations of the Union offices, further claims by Bowyer/Gupta/McNeill that they were on hunger strike and public accusations that the Union had reneged on their promise to pay all the costs, which was blatantly not true.

It has taken (through no fault of the Union) up to May 22nd 2008 to finally reach an agreement on legal costs. This has meant the Union paying a further £44,000 to Solicitors Breslin McCormick. This has also meant the releasing of £40,000 to Bowyer/Gupta/McNeill, money that was being withheld by their own Solicitors pending settlement of the costs issue.

Tribunal Appeal Costs

We were also asked to consider paying the legal costs that will be incurred through the appeal process now that the Employer has decided to appeal the tribunal decision. With the support of our Finance and General Purposes Committee we have agreed to pay the costs associated with the appeal instigated by the Employer, even though this is an unquantifiable cost at this point. Our Union will get behind this appeal process with our own supportive campaign within the trade union movement in Northern Ireland. It is in the interest of all Trade Unionists that this Tribunal decision is not overturned, this is where anyone genuinely interested in wanting to help in this dispute should be lending their support and energy and not in attacking our Union.

Tribunal Award – Compensation – Hardship Payments and Grants

Our Union has been helping financially from the beginning of this dispute and is something we do in all disputes anyway without making public statements. Because of all the Anti Union statements in this case and in order to put the truth

on record we have established documented verification that our hardship payments and grants in this dispute have amounted to £130,728.

The only appeal to our Union following the Tribunal result and Compensation awards to Bowyer/Gupta/McNeill was that we would cover the legal costs. This was requested from the Union on the basis that if their legal costs were met by the Union then the Tribunal awards would not be affected for them as individuals by having to meet the legal costs out of their Compensation awards.

Therefore as can be seen from this summary on their request for legal costs and on our Union’s initiative in covering Tribunal Appeal costs we have fully met our promises and commitments on this matter. These areas will not now cost Bowyer/Gupta/McNeill a penny.

The third area which Bowyer /Gupta/McNeill have raised is that they want the Union to award personal payments to each of the three.

The Union has been advised that there is no legal foundation on which to base this consideration. The Tribunal has awarded compensation of varying levels totalling £750,000 attaching reasons and headings to each level of compensation. The legal advice to us is that if our Union were to award repeat payments under any of these headings it would result in the Tribunal awards being lost in any subsequent appeal, thereby rendering the three no better off financially and indeed only rewarding the Employer.

Even with this legal advice the Union has explored a possible area of financial assistance with a not insubstantial amount in full and final settlement now being offered to Bowyer/Gupta/McNeill. We have done this so as to clearly demonstrate that on all aspects of this case our Union has now done everything possible in the interests of an honourable resolution of the whole issue.

Our future is dedicated to organising non union workplaces across Northern Ireland and fighting back for workers.

Our Union now considers this dispute totally resolved and the Union has no outstanding matters to answer. We will not be accepting any further interference with our responsibilities and duties as an independent Trade Union organisation.

Our Union offices will not be available as a place or a space for Anti Union activity. We will not be held responsible for the actions or consequences of anyone threatening or taking part in hunger strikes. Those taking part in these activities must now take responsibility for their own actions. We will now set about undoing the damage done by those behind the Anti Union activity. We will try to get our genuine efforts at resolving this issue communicated as widely as possible.

JIMMY KELLY
Regional Secretary

Unite deplores the decision by Gordon McNeill to resume his hunger strike at the union’s Belfast office and believes it is an attempt to coerce the union into making him a large cash payment to which he has no legal or moral entitlement.

Over the last week the union has delivered on its long-promised commitment to pay in full the legal costs incurred by Mr McNeill and his colleagues in the course of their Employment Tribunal case against their employer, ICTS. It has further reached agreement on Unite meeting all legal costs associated with the appeal by ICTS against the Tribunal judgement in favour of Mr McNeill and colleagues.

It is therefore dismayed that Mr McNeill has decided to resume his hunger strike in an effort to secure what his legal representatives have demanded in writing as a payment of one million pounds each for himself and his colleagues, notwithstanding that they will each receive a considerable sum from ICTS if the latter’s appeal is dismissed, as Unite hopes it will be.

Unite Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley said today: “Unite has met all Mr McNeill’s legitimate concerns and ensured that neither he nor his colleagues will have to pay a penny towards their legal costs arising from this case. It is clear therefore that what we are now dealing with is an unprincipled money grab which we have no intention of conceding.

“While Mr McNeill persists in his attempts to coerce the union outwith both our own democratic procedures and normal legal representations there can be no question of any further discussions with him or his representatives. It is time that Mr McNeill gave up on these antics. I have asked our Irish region to take all necessary steps to secure the property of our union and the rights of its members and employees.”

Unite Irish Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said: “We have been working intensively over the past year to resolve this dispute arising from the past. Unite has gone the extra mile to meet those concerns which are legitimate and to ensure that Mr McNeill and his colleagues to not suffer any further hardship.

“However, the interests of our hundred thousand members across Ireland mean that we cannot continually be held to ransom in this way. It is deplorable, in particular, that the Socialist Party has apparently abandoned all its principles in order to support this circus and is now taking the view that disgruntled union members have a right to demand seven figure sums in compensation from their union and to go on hunger strike when they do not get it. This has nothing to do with socialism as I understand it.”

author by che_jesus - sppublication date Wed May 28, 2008 19:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Gordon McNeill remains on hunger strike at Transport House - His protest enters the 14th day.
Sacked airport workers' press release (Wednesday 28 May 2008)

"The Unite leadership's attempt to blacken my name and then to silence me through injunctions and threats of fines and imprisonment will not succeed." Gordon McNeill.

Sacked airport shop steward, Gordon McNeill, is now entering the 14th day of his hunger strike at Transport House in Belfast. Gordon and his fellow shop stewards, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, are demanding that the union compensate them for the hardship caused when the union leadership conspired with their employer, ICTS, to get them sacked.

The shop stewards are also insisting that any offer of compensation must be without strings. In particular they are not prepared to sign up to the gagging clauses sought by the union.

The Unite leadership have responded, on the one hand, with a court injunction and the threat of fines and imprisonment, and on the other with a campaign of deliberate misinformation to try to discredit the protestors.

A statement from Unite, with comments from General Secretary, Tony Woodley and Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly (issued on 28/5/08) claims that the reason that Gordon McNeill is on hunger strike is because he is demanding a million pounds compensation. This is completely untrue and the Unite leadership are fully aware that it is not true.

The shop stewards are not asking for a million pounds, as Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly both know. They are seeking a reasonable level of compensation that takes account the hardship the actions of senior union officials have put them through. And they are insistent that any offer must be without strings
Gordon McNeill today commented:

"I am disgusted that the Unite leadership have once again resorted to black propaganda and misinformation in order to discredit myself and my colleagues. As an ordinary union activist who has been blacklisted and out of work for six years because of the actions of my union leadership, I am outraged that these very well paid union officials should try to blacken my name by portraying my protest as "an unprincipled money grab"

"Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly well know that the million pound slur sank long ago and their attempt to re-float it just won't work. The union said they would compensate us and they should.

"But the compensation must be without strings. Unite want us to sign up to a deal that would prevent us from ever speaking out about the dispute. I want compensation but I also want other trade union members to know the full facts about what happened to us.

"Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly must realise that they cannot buy my silence and must remove the gagging clause from any future offer. If they refuse to do so the question that every Unite member, and trade unionists in general must ask is, "what are they trying to hide?"

The Unite statement goes on to attack the role of the Socialist Party. Jimmy Kelly says "the Socialist Party has apparently abandoned all its principles in order to support this circus and is now taking the view that disgruntled union members have a right to demand seven figure sums in compensation from their union and to go on hunger strike when they do not get it. This has nothing to do with socialism as I understand it."

Gordon McNeill, who is a member of the Socialist Party, today responded:

"As a member of the Socialist Party I am proud of the role played by my party colleagues who have stood by us from the very beginning of this struggle. It is Jimmy Kelly who has abandoned all basic trade union, never mind, socialist principles in justifying the way we have been betrayed and mistreated by our union leaders."

Socialist Party Northern Ireland Regional Secretary, Peter Hadden, commented:

"For Jimmy Kelly to try to dismissively describe shop stewards who have struggled for six years for justice from their employer and their union as "disgruntled union members" is insulting in the extreme.

"These workers performed a service for the entire trade union movement when, despite being refused assistance from their union, they took their employers to court and won a landmark ruling that they were sacked because of their trade union and socialist opinions. They deserve apologies, not insults, from a trade union bureaucracy that turned its back on them.

"Two of the shop stewards are members of the Socialist Party. Because we are concerned, first and foremost, about their health we have tried to persuade them not to go on hunger strike.

"However we fully understand why they feel that the actions of the union have left them with no alternative. Now that Gordon McNeill is on hunger strike we will stand behind him all the way and will continue to do everything in our power to expose the mistreatment he and his colleagues have received at the hands of senior Unite officials.

"As Jimmy Kelly knows this is not about seven figure sums. This is about justice. Jimmy Kelly's response has been to go to the courts to get an injunction banning the shop stewards from protesting "in or at" Transport House.

"The question I have for Jimmy Kelly is - what does attempting to buy someone's silence in order to suppress the facts of an injustice or using the courts and the police to deny workers the right to legitimate peaceful protest have to do with socialism?"

For more information contact: Gordon McNeill - 07934632366, Chris Bowyer - 07764850945, Madan Gupta - 07810290938

For all the information please visit: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/

Related Link: http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/
author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Wed May 28, 2008 19:32author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Gordon and his fellow shop stewards, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, are demanding that the union compensate them for the hardship caused when the union leadership conspired with their employer, ICTS, to get them sacked.'

money money money

what a sad and disgraceful little episode

ICTS have already been ordered to pay 6 figure sums in compensation

Unite have already paid a 6 figure sum in hardship payments

any money Unite pay will be deducted on appeal from the legitimate ICTS bill

yet this blackmail and attempted distortion continues, aided and abetted by the socialist party

heaven help us

author by impatient - Teacherpublication date Thu May 29, 2008 12:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Can someone in WSM answer my query re supposed INTO message of support for hunger strikers- can find no reference to it anywhere- only on wsm website and would like a reference to who gave this support on behalf of the INTO?

author by bigjimlarkin - unitepublication date Thu May 29, 2008 12:39author email lisbon67 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Probably nobody comrade

In relation to these statements for support............................ based on the misinformation on this issue and incomplete 'facts' that have been peddled widely as if they were gospel, it is no wonder people pledge support anyway based on teh lies that are told

if you ask a child is he in favour of Christmas he will say he is, because of santy claus

santy claus is more real than much of what has been going on here for weeks, nay months.

Well at least the truth is out now and the grubby extortion attempt is finally exposed for what it is as the red herrings of the alleged non payment of fees that were always going to be paid, and an appeal that was always going to be taken and supported, have been removed

gordon 'show me the money' mcneill finally exposed

socialism my arse

author by imnotsocommonpublication date Thu May 29, 2008 13:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, the truth will out in the end…perhaps Gordon McNeill/SP will comment on the real facts in the Unite statement; in particular the issue of the £130,728 hardship payments and grants paid to the boys in December 2007…they never REVEALED this info, did they?? I wonder why?

The SP should be ashamed of their behaviour in this whole episode…why don’t they put their time and enregy into campaigning/protesting against REAL issues that affect real people like the cuts at Crumlin Children’s hospital today instead of protesting outside Union offices with their anti-union rhetoric and behaviour?

Of course the union had to eventually impose an injunction against McNeill…common sense tells us that the union is legally responsible for the safety of the building, those employed in it and those who choose to sit “on” it.

Finally, perhaps people like Loach, Tomlinson and McGovern should check their facts first before they make public their support like they did.

Hunger strike…my arse!

Grow up SP and go home

author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist Partypublication date Thu May 29, 2008 15:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sacked airport shop steward, Gordon McNeill, calls off hunger strike after doctors threaten court action to have him force fed.

Shop stewards say they will now defy and resist the Unite injunction barring them from protesting at Transport House

A major campaign to be launched to expose the role of the Unite leadership in this dispute and to help Unite members change the union.

Gordon McNeill on the fourteenth day of his hunger strike was last night taken to hospital after police intervened and summoned an ambulance to Transport House.

Gordon continued to refuse food and fluids in hospital. However when doctors prepared to go to the High Court to get an order to feed him, Gordon ended his hunger strike rather than be force fed.

The sacked shop stewards are barred by an injunction got by Unite Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, from protesting at Transport House. They are now planning a campaign to defend their democratic right to protest by defying the injunction.

They are also intent on launching a major campaign in Ireland, Britain and internationally to expose what the Unite leadership have done and link with other union activists who are campaigning to transform the unions into the fighting combative organisations they are supposed to be.

After Gordon had been taken to hospital, union officials in Transport House, in a display of petty vindictiveness, destroyed the tent and personal possessions the shop stewards had left behind on the balcony of the building.

Gordon McNeill today said:

"I have taken my hunger strike as far as I am able. If I had continued to refuse food I would have been kept in hospital and force fed. This would have lifted the pressure off the Unite leadership and would have been ineffective. My protest showed that Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly were prepared to see me die rather than give justice to myself and my two colleagues.

"It is an outrage that the union went to the lengths of serving us with an injunction barring us from protesting at Transport House and then called the police to have me removed from the building. I will not accept this infringement of my basic democratic rights and will be defying the injunction. After everything else these union leaders have done to me the threat of fines, court costs and imprisonment mean little to me now.

"Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly wanted to bribe us into silence about this dispute, and about and their role and the role of their predecessors in it. My answer is clear – my right to tell Unite members and other trade unionists what happened is not for sale. I know this means they will never pay me a penny in compensation but I will not forsake my principles for any amount of money.

"Rather than sign up to any gagging clause, we will now launch a campaign to make sure that the full truth, down to the last dot and comma, of what happened in this long dispute is made public so that the lessons can be drawn.

"I hope to launch this with a meeting in Liverpool hosted by the Liverpool dockers and other leading local trade unionists.

"As I have made clear throughout this struggle, I have no dispute with the rank and file members of Unite or any other union. My fight is with the Unite leadership. I will be making the case for all trade union officials to be elected, and to be paid the wages of the members they represent.!"

END
For more information contact:
Gordon McNeill - 07934632366
Chris Bowyer - 07764850945
Madan Gupta - 07810290938

For all the information please visit:
http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/

author by SIPTU memberpublication date Thu May 29, 2008 18:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A quick Google search brought me to http://belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com/page/2/

"At a lunchtime rally at Transport House Tony Maguire brought the support of the Northern Ireland Region of the Fire Brigades Union and Frank Bunting, Regional Secretary of INTO gave his support."

I don't know if Frank was just speaking for himself or whether a committee or branch of the INTO has discussed this dispute and taken a position.

It is beyond question that the workers were very badly let down by their union during the strike, and I have seen no attempt by anyone to justify what happened. But now, Gordon McNeill - who presumably feels very bitter at the way himself and his colleagues were abandoned in the middle of a strike - is treating the union as an enemy rather than as his own organisation, even if it's one that needs a lot of fixing.

There are a fair few socialists in the T&G section of UNITE, their refusal to publicly support Gordon probably tells us this dispute is not as simple as the SP would have us believe.

author by proud socialistpublication date Fri May 30, 2008 02:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This really is a sad situation. It seems various (or perhaps one) individuals connected with UNITE have tried to paint themselves as blameless. For the record, most of the present leadership in Ireland and Britain, are not to blame for the way this dispute arose and how these fine trade unionists were betrayed. I say "most" and not "all" because I don't know who knew what was going on at the time. But this does mean that Jimmy Kelly, Tony Woodley and Brendan Ogle (I mention these people because their names have already been mentioned) did not play any role in the disgraceful handling of the dispute with ICTS, nor are they responsible for the lads losing their jobs. This fact has never been contradicted.

But it is also true that these people have inherited this sad episode in the history of the TGWU. My question is why have these fine trade unionists had to fight every bit as hard with this leadership as they did with the last rotten Morris one? To my knowledge, Tony Woodley championed their case in his election campaign. He met them and promised to support them. After he was elected, he told them they hadn't a hope in hell of winning the tribunal case. OK. Bad call, but we've all made them. But that it has taken this long and for the men to suffer such hardship says something about the present leadership, Woodley in particular. Surely as a sign that things would be different, that he was closing a sorry chapter and opening a new one, he should have made even a token gesture. He did nothing. Were the men operating in the best interest of their union and the wider union movement? If they weren't, then why send the letter above trying to bury the hatchet days before the announcement of their victory.

What would Jim Larkin have done? He would have replied in the positive, not ignored them. He would have marched arm in arm with the three shop stewards out of the tribunal and declared victory in the name of millions of faceless and nameless workers who suffer exploitation and intimidation. He would have declared that UNITE was now launching an orgainsating drive to organise, represent and fight alongside any worker, anywhere in Britain who wants to fight back. On the strength of that and with a serious drive, the doors could have been opened to thousands and thousands of new members of UNITE. I nor no one can be sure it would have been successful, but surely that course of action would have been better than the present mess. Surely it was worth a try.

MAybe Woodley was right to ignore them and their appeal for unity and peace. maybe he had a better plan. maybe the way the lads wouldn't give, fought for 6 years, protested, stood up to intimidation and threats, sacrificed their health, was the wrong way to win victories. Maybe. But what was Woodley's plan. Perhaps it was encapsulated by the Gate Gourmet saga. Here, in a heroic display of solidarity, something not common in todays union movement, something reminiscent of larkinism and Connollyism and socialism, British Airways workers downed tools and marched out in solidarity with mainly asian low paid workers who had been sacked by Gate Gourmet. But Woodley and the UNITE leadership rather than escalate action and put real pressure to bear on the disgusting role of GG management by shutting down the airport, called for negotiation and accepted a pre-condition from GG that they would not take all the workers back on. Woodley was afraid to continue the action, which was secondary, because of the Thatcher anti-union laws which forbid secondary picketing (maintained by the party he is a member of). By allowing your two hands be tied behind your back, you might as well give up. What was Larkin's attitude to anti-trade union laws? It wasn't to kneel before them and throw your hands up saying: ah sure there's nothing we can do.

I had hopes in Woodley, as I'm sure tens of thousands of rank and file members did, that things might be different. Woodley has been G Sec since 2003. He has had plently of time to sort this dispute. He chose not to. He has had plenty of time to re-organise the union, re-orientate it away from cosy deals with management and the Morris school of company unionism. He has chosen not to. I ask all UNITE officials, what has qualitively has changed under Woodley? DO we have to be enthrawled to someone just because once upon a time they were (nominally) left?

I get the impression that some, perhaps all officials in UNITE in Ireland feel Woodley is the best on offer, so lets not rock the boat. In my opinion that is a gross dereliction of duty. These men deserve support. they have rendered a greater service to the TU movement than Woodley and his hangers on. I say it is time, that people like Jimmy Kelly and others break with Woodley. The trade unions need to be reclaimed and reformed. It is not enough to blame what went before as a bad apple. It has happened too often. There is a real issue it seems in every union about workers controlling their own dispute. there is a real issue with accountability. The above UNITE poster(s) and on other threads have attacked the men as money grabbers and out to bankrupt the union. This would be laughable were it not serious. Why do these nameless individuals not raise such a hullaballoo when it comes to junkets and expense accounts and officials salaries. I am of course not implying financial impropriety on the part of any of the names above - merely their silence on the issue in general.

The issue of making officials accountable to their members was central to the airport workers dispute from the beginning (maybe thats why the union apparatus was so cold for the last 6 years) Wouldn't Jimmy Kelly, Brendan Ogle, the Bald guy and the guy with long hair and tits be better off beginning a campaign to have all officials elected and recallable by their members directly. that they should get only the average wage of those they represent. Applying those criteria to UNITE for month would probably save enough money to pay for 10 tribunal cases. The same with all unions. This isn't a joke. If Joe McCusker was subjected to these democratic procedures, the airport workers would never had to go through this rigmarole.

Regardless whether you decide things are best left as they are, that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with UNITE and the TU movement in general, with or without you, we will step up our campaign for reform of the unions. these are lonely times for genuine socialists, but I certainly prefer being lonely than in the company of union bureaucrats and careerists hiding behind a union badge. "know them by their friends" the quote goes. I'm proud that the airport workers are my friends. Can you say that about yours?

author by BATU memberpublication date Thu Jun 12, 2008 22:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This union is reaping havock see what Unite is doing to BATU its a disgrace

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