On 20.07.08 Unite published a statement on the union website entitled, “Belfast Airport Workers, The Truth and Nothing but The Truth. This statement gives a completely false account of what has happened in this dispute.
Open letter to Tony Woodley, General Secretary and Jimmy Kelly, Irish Regional Secretary Unite
Press Release 23 July 2008
Sacked Airport Shop Steward resumes Transport House protest in defiance of court injunction.
Gordon McNeill says “I am demanding that my union leadership restore my right to protest and my right to free speech”
Sacked airport shop steward, Gordon McNeill, who is awaiting surgery because of damage caused by his recent hunger and thirst strikes at Transport House, is resuming his protest campaign to demand justice from his union leadership.
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.”
Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer sign up to deal
Gordon McNeill suffers serious ill health and faces emergency surgery as a result of his hunger and thirst strike.
Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer have accepted the union offer of £40,000 in return for their complete silence about the dispute. They can no make any comment on any aspect of what happened.
We are now posting a copy of the agreement that they signed so that all Unite members can see how their union leadership is prepared to bribe members to keep them from speaking out. This is an early version of the agreement that was eventually signed. The only difference is that the amount of the bribe was increased from £35,000 to £40,000. Clause (h) is the gagging clause.
To read agreement click here.
“Judgement strengthens all trade union members”
Press release issued by Gordon McNeill, sacked airport worker
The Court of Appeal has issued its judgement on the case of the Belfast airport shop stewards who were sacked in 2002 by airport security firm, ICTS, after they had organised a strike over pay.
Attached is a letter from April 2008 that confirms the Unite leadership reneged on agreement to offer compensation.
“I refuse to be bribed and blackmailed into silence. My struggle for justice continues” Gordon McNeill
Discussions between the sacked airport shop stewards and representatives of the Unite union over a way of resolving the long running dispute that led last month to a hunger strike at Transport House, have failed to lead to agreement with Gordon McNeill.
Following the hunger strike the union made an offer of £40,000 compensation to the three sacked stewards for the union’s role in colluding with their employer, ICTS, to have them sacked,
However this offer has been made conditional on the acceptance by the shop stewards of strings which Gordon McNeill today described as “totally unacceptable”.
These conditions are that the shop stewards agree to a gagging clause preventing them from ever speaking publicly about the dispute and the role played by their union officials. The union is also insisting that the shop stewards sign a letter stating that the current Unite General Secretary, Tony Woodley, and Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly acted in a “reasonable and honourable” manner throughout the dispute.
Gordon McNeill today said:
“It is a disgrace that the leaders of my union are offering members what, in effect, amounts to a bribe to buy their silence.
“I made clear during my hunger strike that my right to tell Unite members, and the trade union membership as a whole, about how our union officials sold us out and then left us to fight the battle against ICTS without help from our union is not for sale.
“Not satisfied with trying to take away my right to tell people the truth, they also want me to tell people a blatant lie by signing a letter saying that Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly have acted honourably throughout.
“Jimmy Kelly and Tony Woodley forced me to go through two weeks of debilitating hunger strike to force them to pay our outstanding legal bills. They served me with an injunction to stop me protesting at Transport House and called the police to get me removed. I’m not going to sign a lie and say that the people who did this to me have acted “honourably” and if I did nobody would believe it anyway.
“I will now be stepping up my public protest campaign which will continue until the Unite leadership withdraw the gagging clause in the proposed agreement and drop their insistence that I sign a letter exonerating Jimmy Kelly and Tony Woodley.
“I am also demanding that the union restore my democratic right to protest by withdrawing the injunction they served on me and with it the threat of fines and imprisonment.”
Issued by Gordon McNeill
Gordon McNeill can be contacted at 07934632366
Shop stewards say they will now defy and resist the Unite injunction barring them from protesting at Transport House
A major campaign to be launched to expose the role of the Unite leadership in this dispute and to help Unite members change the union.
The sacked shop stewards are barred by an injunction got by Unite Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, from protesting at Transport House. They are now planning a campaign to defend their democratic right to protest by defying the injunction.
They are also intent on launching a major campaign in Ireland, Britain and internationally to expose what the Unite leadership have done and link with other union activists who are campaigning to transform the unions into the fighting combative organisations they are supposed to be.
After Gordon had been taken to hospital, union officials in Transport House, in a display of petty vindictiveness, destroyed the tent and personal possessions the shop stewards had left behind on the balcony of the building.
Gordon McNeill today said:
“I have taken my hunger strike as far as I am able. If I had continued to refuse food I would have been kept in hospital and force fed. This would have lifted the pressure off the Unite leadership and would have been ineffective. My protest showed that Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly were prepared to see me die rather than give justice to myself and my two colleagues.
“It is an outrage that the union went to the lengths of serving us with an injunction barring us from protesting at Transport House and then called the police to have me removed from the building. I will not accept this infringement of my basic democratic rights and will be defying the injunction. After everything else these union leaders have done to me the threat of fines, court costs and imprisonment mean little to me now.
“Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly wanted to bribe us into silence about this dispute, and about and their role and the role of their predecessors in it. My answer is clear – my right to tell Unite members and other trade unionists what happened is not for sale. I know this means they will never pay me a penny in compensation but I will not forsake my principles for any amount of money.
“Rather than sign up to any gagging clause, we will now launch a campaign to make sure that the full truth, down to the last dot and comma, of what happened in this long dispute is made public so that the lessons can be drawn.
“I hope to launch this with a meeting in Liverpool hosted by the Liverpool dockers and other leading local trade unionists.
Gordon McNeills health detriorates – ambulance called
Union have called on police to enforce an injunction they previously sought from the courts to stop this peaceful protest. This is an attack on the democratic right to peacefully protest and an outrage that it has been orchestrated by a trade union leadership against workers.
We call on all Unite members to protest to their leadership against this action.