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Peter Hadden

Belfast airport workers

Campaigning for justice

(May 2007)

From The Socialist, 25 May 2007.
Transcribed by Ciaran Crossey.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Five years ago 22 airport security workers at Belfast International airport were sacked for striking against poverty wages. Disgracefully their union, the T&GWU, after first assuring the workers that the strike was legal and official, repudiated the action after the workers had walked out.

This gave their employer, Israeli based security firms ICTS, the green light to sack them. All four of the shop stewards were sacked, along with anyone else who held a position in the union.

Since then, the workers, led by the shop stewards, two of whom are members of the Socialist Party, have fought a long battle for justice. This has involved pickets and demonstrations at the airport as well as a legal case against the company.

The battle has also been taken to the union as the workers have sought clear answers as to why T&GWU officials, right up to the top of the union, called them out on strike and then left them high and dry by repudiating the strike.

They have won the initial case that the strike was legal. To get this far they had to break with the union solicitors who told them they had no case. The workers are now taking a case for unfair dismissal which, on the strength of the hearings so far, they are confident will be won. The shop stewards are taking a potentially ground breaking case of discrimination alleging that they were sacked because of their "trade union opinion and socialist beliefs."

Sacked shop steward & Socialist Party member, Gordon McNeill, told The Socialist:

“We have been out all along to show that ordinary union members can fight back, with or without the support of their union officials. We are not anti-union. We want to strengthen the unions by taking them out of the hands of corrupt officials and putting the members in charge. Workers need unions that will fight, not sell their members out. We went to the courts only as a last resort. The best way workers can fight is through mass action on the streets and on the picket lines. If our union had stood by us five years ago none of the action we have had to take since then would have been necessary.”

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