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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
Gate Gourmet settlement reached
Sacked Gate Gourmet workers
The sacked Gate workers had campaigned to get their jobs back
A settlement has been reached which could end the dispute between in-flight caterer Gate Gourmet and the Transport and General Workers Union.

Details of the deal will be released after a staff meeting on Wednesday.

But if the deal is ratified by both sides, they say they will work together to "rebuild trust and confidence".

The dispute started in August when the caterer sacked 670 workers in a row over restructuring. Staff at British Airways then walked out in sympathy.

The Gate Gourmet workers had staged an illegal walkout to protest against the firm's hiring of temporary seasonal workers.

"Both the company and the union are pleased that a way forward has been found and, if the agreement is ratified, both sides have committed to working together to rebuild trust and confidence after all the difficulties of recent weeks," said Gate Gourmet and the union (T&G) in a joint statement on Monday.

The T&G said it would be holding a mass meeting of staff on Wednesday to discuss the settlement, adding it expected to release details of the deal following the talks.

Redundancy deals

The two-day wildcat action by British Airways (BA) ground staff at Heathrow grounded all the airline's flights from the airport, leaving more than 100,000 passengers stranded, and costing the airline an estimated 40m ($72m).

It also left BA unable to provide normal in-flight meals once flights resumed, with many passengers instead being given vouchers with which to buy their food from the airport.

Passenger affected by the BA strike in August
The sympathy strike by BA workers caused chaos at Heathrow

After the BA staff had returned to work, the stand-off at Gate Gourmet rumbled on, with the sacked staff picketing outside the caterer's Heathrow factory.

To try to end the dispute, at the end of August Gate Gourmet offered all staff - including those that had been sacked - redundancy packages.

About 700 staff - 300 of those sacked and 400 from the existing Gate Gourmet employees - applied to accept the offer, according to the union.

Financial problems

One remaining disagreement at the time was Gate Gourmet's insistence that it would not re-employ 200 so-called "troublemakers".

It now appears that Gate Gourmet and the T&G have managed to come to some sort of agreement on this issue.

The US-owned caterer said all along that its UK operation faced going into administration if it could not cut costs.

It has since provisionally secured the improved BA contract it said its UK business needs to secure its financial survival, but the airline has said all along that this was dependent upon Gate Gourmet and the T&G coming to agreement.

BA is Gate Gourmet's largest customer in the UK.


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