Sunday, June 01, 2008

Six years ago workers at the Belfast Airport in Northern Ireland went on strike for a 50p/hour pay raise. Instead of supporting them their union, UNITE, colluded with management to have 24 of the workers fired. Since then the workers in question have fought a long battle against both the Belfast Airport management AND their union. The news story below is from today's LibCom board, and it tells how UNITE has obtained court injunctions against these workers who it supposedly "represented". I was first made aware of this situation by a reply posted on another matter by 'Radical Glasgow'. Since then I have researched the matter, and, yes, it appears to be a particularly egregious case and the workers involved deserve full support. Their website, the Belfast Airport Workers, has a petition that you can sign in their support. Here's the article.
Unite injunction against Belfast sacked shop stewards

The Unite union has served an injunction against protesting shop stewards, threatening them 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 on Tuesday afternoon.

Sacked shop steward, Gordon McNeill, who was on the thirteenth day of a hunger strike, was served with a court injunction brought by the union barring 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.”

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