Are you on the workers' side?
A sacked worker describes August 10 management ambush
It was a pretty normal day as far as I was concerned. Then someone said there was a meeting in the canteen regarding the casual workers from the agency. We have no problem with casual staff - it's a normal practice every year. They advertise for extra staff every summer - students, school-leavers and so on. This time it was different - the jobs were not advertised. On the one hand, they say they want to get rid of 670 staff. On the other, they take on agency workers. Obviously we wanted to know what was going on. So we gathered in the canteen. As we were waiting for someone to come and talk to us, the deputy general manager came in and said, "If you don't go back to work in three minutes, you'll be dismissed." We had been told that a senior union official was on his way to talk to us, but meanwhile the deputy general manger comes back after three minutes with two armed police officers and hundreds of security guards. He's got loads of leaflets and reads out a statement saying we've taken part in an unofficial industrial action and therefore we're all dismissed. Then they locked the doors so we couldn't leave! We were all kept there for five hours, including two pregnant women. Eventually they came back to say if we don't leave the building, "minimum force" will be used. The security guards and police officers formed a chain. They told us the union official wasn't coming - they had taken his pass. They started forcibly removing people and by this time I was feeling scared. Outside the managers and supervisors were all standing there. They took our passes and told us to take our overalls off. This was humiliating to me in front of all those male managers. Sometimes you're dressed in very minimal clothes in the hot weather. But that didn't bother them. We were escorted out. I heard them speaking to the afternoon shift as they were coming in. They didn't even explain what had happened. All they said was that "something serious has happened" and "Are you on the management or workers' side?" The workers in the car park wanted to know more. But the manager came back and announced through a megaphone: "You are all dismissed." They weren't allowed to go to their lockers to collect their belongings. Now they're trying to divide us. They say they'll take some of us back, but they don't want the "hard core", the "troublemakers" - they mean the union. If they get away with this, I can see them bringing in child slavery next. It was a great boost when the baggage handlers came out. I wasn't expecting it and I was really grateful. Because of that the whole world sat up and noticed. We're just working people, not politicians. We don't know the ins and outs of the law. We didn't do anything wrong at the end of the day. Look at these Asian ladies. Do they look like criminals? But I do know we should have the right to hold a meeting and the baggage handlers should have the right to go on strike for us. Sometimes you have to do things like that to get justice. Do you think anyone would have taken notice if they hadn't done that? I don't know if I'm confident of getting my job back, but I'm hopeful.