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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Workers vent fury at Gate Gourmet
By Ben Davies
BBC News political reporter

Tony Woodley
Tony Woodley called the company 'ruthless'
The TUC's annual conference began on Monday with a noisy demonstration outside Brighton's conference centre by sacked Gate Gourmet workers.

T&G general secretary Tony Woodley came out to welcome his members, the former staff of the Heathrow catering company, which supplies meals to British Airways.

He branded Gate Gourmet as a "ruthless, union-busting employer".

Some of the workers were then invited into the conference centre where they listened to messages backing them from a succession of speakers before a motion was passed in their support.

'Contemptible attacks'

It read: "Congress records its profound anger at the shameful treatment of 667 workers sacked by Gate Gourmet catering at Heathrow...

Kam Olakh
Kam Olakh wants politicians to step into workers' shoes

"Congress applauds the Gate Gourmet workers who continue to fight for their jobs in the face of contemptible attacks on their character, their community and their union."

One of the workers, Kam Olakh, declared she had never seen anything like the reception they were receiving down here in Brighton.

She said it was time for British politicians to "step down into the shoes of normal people and see what it is like".

The Gate Gourmet case has brought sharply into focus one of the most contentious aspects of Britain's trade union laws, initiated by Margaret Thatcher, kept by Tony Blair.

Action thwarted

People are not allowed to go out in strike in solidarity with their fellow workers.

In this case it was baggage handlers, bus drivers and ground staff who were related to the Gate Gourmet workers whose illegal secondary action was thwarted, if only after it had brought chaos at the height of the holiday season.

Sarjit Sandha
Sarjit Sandha denied claims that staff were troublemakers

Sarjit Sandha, another of the sacked workers, said it was time to roll back "anti-trade union laws".

And he dismissed as "cobblers" comments by Gate Gourmet management that they were faced with a hard core of trouble makers among the sacked staff.

Outside the conference centre by the sea in Brighton, the demonstration continued as speeches were made to delegates.

The left-wing leader of the RMT, Bob Crow, delivered a typically tub-thumping oration calling for a national demonstration to try to force the government to act and repeal the anti-union laws.

"Governments will come and governments will go but we will still be here," he said.

"We must march on Parliament to force the repeal of anti-trade union laws."

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