Northern Ireland: Airport workers suspend hunger strike to await offer

Legal bills understood to be paid – Unite union promise to make compensation offer

PRESS RELEASE – Friday 23rd May

Decision whether to recommence the hunger strike under review

The sacked airport shop stewards, Gordon McNeill and Chris Bowyer, who have been on hunger strike on the balcony outside Transport House [Unite union offices, Belfast] suspended their action at 9 am this morning.

The men have come off the Transport House balcony. Gordon McNeill, who went five days without food and water, and a further three days without food, was suffering from chest pains and had to be assisted off. Chris Bowyer has been suffering bowel problems. Both men have now gone for urgent medical assistance.

The hunger strikers had made clear earlier in the week that they would temporarily suspend the hunger strike if the union made good its promise to pay outstanding legal bills and to cover the costs of legal representation for the Court of Appeal case now pending.

The shop stewards now understand that the legal bills are now being paid and the terms on which barristers will be engaged to handle the appeal have been agreed. All that remains is the outstanding issue of compensation and the protest has been suspended to allow urgent discussions on this.

Gordon McNeill today said:

"We are pleased that Unite now appears to have paid our legal costs and that we can now have a legal team in place for the appeal.

"We have suspended our action because we said that if Unite showed good faith by paying these bills, we would allow a space for an offer on compensation to be made and negotiated.

"I expect Unite to act with urgency on this so that I will be able to announce a final settlement of this long running issue. This will depend on them offering an amount of compensation that realistically reflects the six years of hardship and suffering that our families and ourselves have been put through."

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May 2008