Northern Ireland: Unite union serves injunction and threatens protesting shop stewards with fines and imprisonment

"Unite are trying to deny us our democratic right to peacefully protest." Gordon McNeill

The dispute between the sacked airport shop stewards and their union, Unite, was dramatically escalated this afternoon.

Sacked shop steward, Gordon McNeill, who is on the thirteenth day of a hunger strike, was served with a court injunction brought by the union baring him from continuing to protest "in or at Transport House". The injunction makes clear that, if any of the three shop stewards involved in the protest, Gordon McNeill, Chris Bowyer and Madan Gupta, continue to protest they may face fines, seizure of assets and/or imprisonment.

Gordon McNeill has responded by escalating his protest from a hunger strike to a hunger and thirst strike. Gordon commented:

"Trade union members are used to employers serving injunctions to stop pickets and other protests. Now it is our union who are using the law to try to take away our right to protest.

"Is it not enough that our union leadership got us sacked and then refused us support in our legal battle against our employer? Now they are threatening to use the courts to fine us, seize our assets and put us in prison in order to silence us. They are going to take away my democratic right to free speech.

"They should remember that the right to join unions was won by people like the Tolpuddle Martyrs who faced jail and deportation fighting the combination laws. I’m sure those early trade unionists would turn in their graves at the thought that the organisations they founded were led by people who would threaten their own members with imprisonment for daring to take protest action.

"We have every right to continue our peaceful and dignified protest demanding justice from our union. My response to this latest intimidation is to escalate my protest from a hunger strike to a hunger and thirst strike. I will not take fluids until I am convinced that Unite Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, will not persist with this threat of court action."

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May 2008
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