From www.socialistworld.net, 16 July 2002.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist World Website.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
TRADE UNIONISTS across Northern Ireland are determined to show their support for the 24 security workers who were sacked at Belfast international airport for daring to go on strike demanding a wage rise.
This support was shown at the demonstration called by the airport workers on 6 July and workers will support the 72-hour strike starting on 10 July until their employer, ICTS, backs down.
ICTS pays rock bottom wages. The basic wage for the hundred or so staff they employ in the airport is £5.20 an hour. There is no overtime and no sickness benefit.
This company boasts of its high-tech security. But there is nothing high-tech or secure about workers forced to work long and exhausting shifts for poverty wages.
When workers took strike action on 14 May ICTS claimed the action was illegal and sacked just over half of those taking part. To no one’s surprise the shop stewards and former shop stewards were among those dismissed.
With the union organisers out of the picture ICTS, backed by the airport, have been trying to intimidate those left behind to accept a paltry 18p pay offer. They have also increased the working hours.
The claim that the action was illegal was because, having secured 87% support in a strike ballot, the workers agreed to suspend the action to allow negotiations to take place. When the negotiations got nowhere they reinstated the strike.
They were assured by the TGWU official handling the dispute that their action was legal and the strike was official. Yet 24 hours after sanctioning the strike the same official wrote a letter repudiating it and stating that the company would be within its rights in sacking them!
Worse, the shop stewards were not told of their right to submit an Interim Relief Certificate which would have forced ICTS to continue paying them until an Unfair Dismissal case was heard.
An understandably angry delegation of sacked workers lobbied the delegates to the TGWU Regional Conference and managed to force a meeting with an embarrassed Bill Morris, TGWU General Secretary. Morris promised to make the dispute official and to provide legal backing.
Meanwhile management have interfered in the pay ballot that was conducted among the rest of the workforce. A new ballot on pay and on reinstatement of all the sacked workers should be held and the TGWU and other unions should make it clear that they will stand fully behind these workers in a strike.
ICTS thought that this issue was done with when they sacked the 24. Unions must back the sacked workers and let ICTS know that the dispute is only beginning.
Last updated: 14.7.2012