Northern Ireland: Airport workers suspend hunger strike

Union gives guarantees workers’ demands will be met

The five day hunger strike by three sacked airport shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer was suspended at 5.30 this afternoon [Friday 11 April 2008] after the workers received a letter from the union solicitors guaranteeing that their demands would be met.

The workers were forced to resort to the drastic step of a hunger strike because their union, Unite, had reneged on commitments given to them last September. These were that the union would pay the legal costs of their long running Industrial Tribunal case against their employer, ICTS, and would also meet the costs of defending the Industrial Tribunal ruling should ICTS appeal the decision. The union also promised to offer them compensation for its role in co-operating with ICTS to have them sacked.

The hunger strike has now been suspended because the union has guaranteed to meet the full legal costs and have opened up negotiations on compensation with a guarantee that this will be settled by the end of April.

Sacked shop stewards Gordon McNeill commented at the end of the hunger strike: "We are suspending our action because we now have a firm commitment from the union that they will implement the promises they made last September. We also have a date by which all the issues of dispute should be resolved.

"We see this as a total vindication of the stand that we have made. Our only regret is that we had to resort to the drastic step of a hunger strike and put our health at risk. If the union had kept their word and implemented what they had agreed last September none of this would have been necessary.

"We also regret that no union official was prepared to meet and discuss with us face to face during our hunger strike. Had they met us the whole thing could have been resolved very quickly and we would not have had to suffer five days of cold, hunger and thirst.

"We have made a stand on behalf of all low paid workers by showing that we were not prepared to be pushed around either by our employer or our union

"I would like to pay tribute to those people in Ireland, Britain and across the world who inundated Unite union with protests on our behalf."

After coming off the hunger-strike, the workers have had to go to hospital for medical treatment. All are expected to make a recovery.

Issued [11 April 2008] on behalf of Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer

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