Gordon McNeill faces emergency operation as a result of hunger strike

PRESS RELEASE 16 July 2008


Sacked airport shop steward, Gordon McNeill faces emergency operation as a result of hunger strike


Gordon refuses Unite offer of £40,000 to buy his silence. His campaign for justice continues.


“My right to tell my fellow union members the truth is not for sale” Gordon McNeill


Sacked airport shop steward Gordon McNeill, who spent 14 days on hunger strike including a week of hunger and thirst strike, in May, now faces emergency surgery to fuse vertebrae in his neck.


Doctors have put the sudden deterioration in his health down to the effects of his prolonged hunger and thirst strike, which caused one or more of the discs in his neck to dry out and herniate.


Following the hunger strike the leadership of his Union, Unite, offered Gordon and his two fellow shop stewards, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, a sum of £40,000 each in return for a commitment that they would never talk about this dispute again.


The draft agreement can be read at http://www.belfastairportworkers.wordpress.com. The relevant clause (h) reads as follows:


“For any of your clients accepting the offer they agree individually that only an agreed joint statement will be issued ( to be agreed), and no other statement will be made at any time  in the future in relation to this dispute with the union ( including refernce to the TGWU or any current or former officer of the TGWU or Unite).”


Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer have signed this agreement and can no longer comment on the dispute. Gordon McNeill is refusing to sign and is adamant that his right to tell the truth is not for sale at any price.


Gordon today said:


“The most important thing for me now is to make sure that the true story of our dispute is told. I will never accept the bribe that Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly have tried to get me to accept in return for my silence.


“Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly both said that a confidentiality clause is a “standard” requirement of an agreement. It is no such thing. I could have taken the union to court and would have won the case. I would have been compensated and there would have been no gagging clause.


“The real question for Unite members now to ask is why do Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly want to buy my silence? What is it that they don’t want Unite members to know about?


“If I sold my right to speak I would also be selling the democratic right of every member of Unite to know the truth. I will never sell this right.


“The health problems I am now suffering are a result of the hunger and thirst strikes that I had to undertake to get the Unite leadership to stand by commitments they had made on our legal fees. This makes me even more determined that their efforts to bury the truth will not succeed.


“They have published lies on the Unite website about what happened in the dispute and especially about the role of the current Unite leadership. I will make sure that these are answered. I will be challenging Tony Woodley to set up an enquiry made up of rank and file members of Unite acceptable to both sides to establish the full facts of what happened and start to draw the lessons.”


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