Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Belfast International Airport - Tribunal finds in favour of sacked workers in 2002 strike

Photo from Belfast International Airport (BFS) Master Plan (c) BIAL

Next time you go through the airport and sigh loudly as you join the back of the security queue and then sigh again as you get asked to take your belt and shoes off ... spare a though for the men and women working as security staff.

Tasked with making air travel safe, they put up with grumpy, sweaty travellers while getting paid a pittance.

The staff working for ICTS up at Belfast International Airport went out on strike back in 2002 in a dispute over pay, overtime rates and sick pay. Around that time you may have noticed many of the familiar faces disappearing from Aldergrove, replaced with staff brought in by ICTS from Scottish airports.

Image (c) BBC

The dispute ended with 23 (or 24 depending on your source) staff being sacked. It all got very messy: the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation’s Solidarity Bulletin explains the background.

Despite a lack of support for their case from the TGWU, an industrial tribunal has found that the staff were unfairly dismissed by ICTS and that four shop stewards had been unlawfully discriminated against. A total of £750,000 compensation was awarded.

Shop steward Gordon McNeill commented in a BBC report:

“Our case sets two important legal precedents which strengthen the hand of all trade unionists ... The tribunal decisions in our case now establish that shop stewards can legally resume suspended strikes with no legal requirement to give any notice to employers and that any shop steward who is victimised or sacked can claim political discrimination, rather than just unfair dismissal.”

However, for the shop stewards, the matter is far from resolved. Chris Bowyer, Madan Gupta, Gordon McNeill and Malcolm Spencer felt abandoned by their union, and are staging a hunger strike in front of Transport and General Workers' Union headquarters in London demanding to answers. McNeill added:

“We have had a battle for five years, we need answers to questions from out union as to why we were told effectively this case could not be run. We have had to fund this ourselves privately it has cost over £200,000. We will stay on hunger strike until the union leadership meet our demands for a full inquiry and until they agree to meet the legal bill and other costs we have incurred.”

Update: some progress on the ICTS case ...

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