In 1997 British Airways outsourced its in-flight catering at Heathrow airport to Gate Gourmet with the transfer of 1,200 staff, the majority of whom were older Asian women.  The firm was sold in 2002 to venture capitalists, Texas Pacific Group. In 2005 the company announced a restructuring package that would involve a significant number of redundancies.  The company were in negotiations with the TGWU on the terms of the severance packages and changes to the terms and conditions of remaining workers. On 10 August 2005 the company brought in temporary agency workers, which led to a union meeting on site.  The employers instructed the workers to leave the site and over the next day dismissed 670 workers.  This action led to secondary ‘sympathy’ strike action by other workers at Heathrow, which disrupted flights in and out of the airport.  As a result, British Airways stepped into the dispute to try and find a resolution with the employers and trade unions.  Eventually, Gate Gourmet offered an enhanced redundancy package to most of the workers and reinstated a smaller number of others.  However, the company refused to reinstate 200 of the dismissed workers it felt were ‘troublemakers’.  Although this dispute was not directly about equal pay, it highlights the impact of outsourcing on the terms and conditions of women workers and particularly women of colour.  It is also an illustration, like the Grunwick and Imperial Typewriters disputes, of the approbation faced by women of colour when they organise collectively to improve their working conditions.

Further Resources: