From Socialist Voice (Dublin), January 2003.
Transcribed by Ciaran Crossey.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
SECURITY STAFF at Belfast International Airport went on strike last year against low pay and poor conditions. Their employer, security company ICTS, sacked 22 of the strikers including the shop stewards. Two of the victimised shop stewards and leaders of this dispute, Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta, have decided that the best way to continue their struggle is by joining the Socialist Party. Peter Hadden spoke to Gordon McNeill about the reasons why.
Gordon: We took the decision to join because we agree with the principles of the Party and also because of the assistance the Party gave us during our strike. Without this help we would have been lost in the fight not just against the company but against the leadership of our own union, the T&GWU.
Peter: The strike was defeated and you lost your jobs. Do you regret the action you took?
Gordon: I don’t regret the action for one second. We can hold our heads up because we challenged the "dictatorship" in the airport. We may have lost the immediate battle against ICTS but we won a moral victory in that we fought for people’s genuine concerns and rights. Since the strike we have also been able to expose the security breaches that took place to keep the airport open when we were out. The fight will now continue in the legal arena and by whatever other means at our disposal to expose what is going on at Belfast International Airport.
Peter: What is happening in the airport now?
Gordon: The ICTS workers are very angry. Some want to organise a demonstration at the airport against the sackings and the ongoing treatment they are receiving. One worker is being victimised for her trade union activities. Staff have voiced their concerns and are requesting another ballot for strike action if she is dismissed. The strike was defeated but heads have not gone down.
Peter: The strikers believe that the incorrect advice and lack of initial support from your full time union official contributed to the sacking decision. What lessons have you learned?
Gordon: The first thing that has to happen is the election of all trade union officials. The bureaucracy in the unions must come to an end. Also the wages they receive must be on a par with the workers they represent. We were concerned that our official was too close to airport management. This should not happen. All officials should have to declare any links and especially any vested interests they may have with the companies they deal with.
Peter: The strike showed that workers in Northern Ireland can stand together. Are there general political lessons to be drawn from this?
Gordon: The dispute united workers of all religions and creeds in a fight for basic human rights. It showed a different side to Northern Ireland with people prepared to come together for the common good rather than be drawn apart by sectarianism. The basis of politics here needs to be the bread and butter issues such as housing, education and health. We need a party that can challenge sectarianism and put these things to the fore.
Last updated: 26.7.2012