SECURITY STAFF at Belfast International Airport went on strike last year
against low pay and poor conditions. Their employer, security company ICTS,
sacked 22 of the strikers including the shop stewards. Two of the victimised
shop stewards and leaders of this dispute, Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta, have
decided that the best way to continue their struggle is by joining the
Socialist Party. Peter Hadden spoke to Gordon McNeill about the reasons why.
Gordon: We took the decision to join because we agree with the principles of the
Party and also because of the assistance the Party gave us during our strike.
Without this help we would have been lost in the fight not just against the company but against the leadership of our own union, the T&GWU.
Peter: The strike was defeated and you lost your jobs. Do you regret the action you took?
Gordon: I don't regret the action for one second. We can hold our heads up
because we challenged the "dictatorship" in the airport. We may have
lost the immediate battle against ICTS but we won a moral victory in that we
fought for people's genuine concerns and rights. Since the strike we have also
been able to expose the security breaches that took place to keep the airport
open when we were out. "The fight will now continue in the legal arena and
by whatever other means at our disposal to expose what is going on at Belfast
Peter: What is happening in the airport now?
Gordon: The ICTS workers are very angry. Some want to organise a demonstration at the airport against the sackings and the ongoing treatment they are receiving.
One worker is being victimised for her trade union activities. Staff have
voiced their concerns and are requesting another ballot for strike action if
she is dismissed. The strike was defeated but heads have not gone down.
strikers believe that the incorrect advice and lack of initial support from
your full time union official contributed to the sacking decision. What lessons
have you learned?
Gordon: The first thing that has to happen is the election of all trade union
officials. The bureaucracy in the unions must come to an end. Also the wages
they receive must be on a par with the workers they represent. We were
concerned that our official was too close to airport management. This should
not happen. All officials should have to declare any links and especially any
vested interests they may have with the companies they deal with.
Peter: The strike showed that workers in Northern Ireland can stand together. Are there general political lessons to be drawn from this?
Gordon: The dispute united workers of all religions and
creeds in a fight for basic human rights. It showed a different side to
Northern Ireland with people prepared to come together for the common good
rather than be drawn apart by sectarianism. The basis of politics here needs to
be the bread and butter issues such as housing, education and health. We need a
party that can challenge sectarianism and put these things to the fore.
There are more articles about the airport dispute
on the site, and a lot of reports of trade union disputes, etc.