Ireland: Sacked airport shop stewards to start hunger strike

"We want the T&GWU to agree an immediate inquiry into the role played by our union officials at the time we were sacked. We will not come off our hunger strike until we get it" Gordon McNeill

Two of the three airport shop stewards, who were sacked from Belfast International Airport for taking strike action over pay, have decided to start a hunger strike.

They are demanding that the T&GWU Executive agree to set up an Inquiry, made up of rank and file members of the union, to uncover the truth about the role played by their union official, Joe McCusker, and other officials, at the time of their dismissal.

Gordon McNeill today commented:

"Madan Gupta and I have very reluctantly, and with heavy hearts, taken this decision because we can see no other way of bringing this long dispute to a resolution. All the sacked workers are totally frustrated at the way in which an officer in the union and other officers have treated us.

"The issue has dragged on for nearly two years and has taken a big toll on us, badly affecting our health. Madan and I are determined to bring it to a head now. We want an Inquiry but we want it to be made up of rank and file members who will be prepared to look at what happened in a truthful and independent way.

"It clearly states in the union code of practice that, where a shop steward is dismissed, an immediate inquiry will be set up to investigate. That’s all we are asking for but we have been forced to take this drastic action because, up to now, this right has been denied us.

"In May 2002 our union official, Joe McCusker, called us out on official strike. Then, when we were on strike, he told our employer that he had repudiated our action and the company then used this as their excuse to sack us. We have now found out that a week earlier he had given the company an assurance that there would be no strike.

"We want to know why this happened. Were we set up? What links, if any, existed between our official and our employer, ICTS? We have been asking these questions for nearly two years and have not been given answers. That is why we need an inquiry.

We want Joe McCusker to sign an affidavit clarifying that he told us that our strike was both legal and official. To date all the promises that he would do so have been broken. We want to know why.

"Going on hunger strike might seem to many a desperate step to take in order to get the union to take the very simple step of setting up an inquiry. But we have been driven to this, we have been slandered, vilified and threatened to the point that we feel our lives have been ruined, and we want to get to the truth in order to clear our names.

The real question is why it takes such drastic action to get the T&GWU leadership to concede an inquiry. We are asking union members to support our action by putting this question directly to our General Secretary, Tony Woodley"

Madan Gupta and Gordon McNeill will begin their hunger strike on Monday 16th February inside Transport House Belfast.

Gordon McNeill can be contacted on 07719574338

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February 2004