Gate Gourmet Timeline

  • 1997

    British Airways sells its in–house catering operations to Gate Gourmet.

  • 2000

    Under pressure to cut costs, Gate Gourmet, the world’s second biggest supplier of in–flight meals, reports first loss.

  • 2002

    Texas Pacific Group buys Gate Gourmet from Swissair.

  • 2004

    Union negotiations begin with Gate Gourmet over changing working practices.

  • March 2005

    Virgin Atlantic cancels contract with Gate Gourmet.

  • August 2005

    10 August: Workers returning from their tea break find agency staff working on the production line. About 200 workers assemble in the canteen where they are joined by shop stewards.  Management warns them twice by megaphone that if they do not resume work immediately they will be sacked. They are held in the canteen for about seven hours and then a lockout is imposed by Gate Gourmet.

    British Airways (BA) baggage handlers, bus drivers and ground staff stage solidarity strike action, paralysing flights for 48 hours.

    11 August: 300 Gate Gourmet workers reporting for duty are  asked to sign a new contract with worse pay and conditions.

    12 August: Conciliation service ACAS holds talks between Gate Gourmet and Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU).

    12 August: BA staff return to work as their union TGWU declares their secondary strike action is illegal.

    26 August: TGWU District Officer Oliver Richardson announces  that an agreement has been reached with Gate Gourmet. This offers:  reinstatement for some workers (on new terms and conditions), voluntary redundancies for some and compulsory redundancies for others who will be offered compensation..

  • September 2005

    9 September: In the fifth week of the dispute, the TGWU issues a press statement confirming it has reached an agreement with  Gate Gourmet  concerning the selection criteria for redundancy .

    28 September: Gate Gourmet announces an agreement with the TGWU. The company will re–engage 395 of the 710 sacked workers. The rest will receive compensation including 144 who will be made compulsorily redundant. TGWU recommends that all workers sign the deal (Compromise Agreement)

  • October 2005

    20 October: Gate Gourmet announces on its website that a new commercial agreement with British Airways has been signed.

  • November 2005

    9 November: Union solicitors file the Employment Tribunal cases for the 701 workers who have refused to sign the Compromise Agreement.

    18 November: According to Financial Times, “only 50 of the 144” (workers who were to be made compulsorily redundant) ‘have so far agreed to take the money and sign the letters.”

  • December 2005

    4 December: Some 500 locked-out Gate Gourmet workers and their supporters march through Southall to demand that the TGWU makes their dispute official  and takes action to reinstate the sacked workers. 

    13 December: Gate Gourmet announces on its website that  a total of 193 Gate Gourmet workers have so far signed the Compromise Agreement.

    15 December: British Airways (BA) sacks Mark Fisher, one of the three TGWU shop stewards disciplined for organising an unofficial strike at Heathrow Airport on August 11th and 12th  in support of the Gate Gourmet workers. The other two face disciplinary action and penalties.

  • January 2006

    5 January: British Airways (BA) sacks a second shop steward who had been charged with organising unofficial secondary strike action at Heathrow on August 11th–12th 2005.

    25 January: The TGWU hardship fund for Gate Gourmet workers is closed and the last payment is made to the sacked workers still pressing for reinstatement.

  • April 2006

    08 April: Locked-out Gate Gourmet workers stopped from picketing the Gate Gourmet plant  by the Heathrow Airport police and  British Airports Authority Airport Duty Manager. The picket is no longer considered a recognised TGWU picket.

    20 April: Gate Gourmet announces improved staff productivity, declining sickness rates and a reduction in the amount of overtime required.

  • September 2006

    18 September: The Guardian reports that two of the former  shop stewards  who led the solidarity action in August 2005 are to receive payoffs from the  TGWU amounting to £600,000.

  • December 2006

    13 December: The Employment Tribunal at Reading in the case of “Abbas et al vs  Gate Gourmet London Ltd” ruled that the assembling in the canteen on  August 10, 2005 was unlawful unofficial action.

  • 2007

    March: On the brink of bankruptcy, Gate Gourmet is bought by 40 institutional investors including Merrill Lynch.

    18 May: Reading Employment Tribunal hears the claims for unfair dismissal of 37 workers against Gate Gourmet.

    12 June: The  Employment Tribunal dismisses all but four of the 37 claims for unfair dismissal by sacked Gate Gourmet workers.

    6 November: Gate Gourmet admits that it wrongfully dismissed eight workers who had all been off work sick, or on holiday or on compassionate leave on August 10 2005.


  • 2008

    15 April: The Employment Tribunal  rules  that six of the remaining  claimants were unfairly dismissed, among them S Dhillon, the union convenor at time of the dispute.  It also found that two other shop stewards S Sandhu and H Singh were fairly dismissed because they had participated in  unofficial industrial action.

  • 2009

    2009: 56 sacked workers continue to reject the compulsory redundancy offer. Since TGWU (now UNITE) withdrew, only Newsline (part of the  Workers Revolutionary Party) continues to support them.