Food Bosses fired workers on sick leave
Daily Mirror Exclusive: 12 August 2005
By Greig Box
DOZENS of employees at catering firm Gate Gourmet were fired by courier-delivered letters while on maternity leave or off sick, it emerged yesterday.
Kavita Bhandhaj found her note as she returned from hospital in the early hours yesterday with her newborn baby boy.
The ailing company has dismissed up to 800 people it claimed staged an illegal walkout in a row over hiring 130 new seasonal staff.
Kitchen worker Kavita, 28, of Cranford, West London, said: "I was overjoyed when I brought my first child home but I nearly fainted when I read the letter. I was sick with shock.
"On the one hand I'm thrilled to become a mother, but on the other I'm scared I won't be able to pay the rent."
Husband Rajin also works for the company and now fears the axe as well.
Driver Ajit Gill, 50 - off work for months with a chronic heart problem - was also among more than 30 workers sent letters in the dead of night.
A motorbike courier shoved the note through his door in Southall, West London, at 2am.
The dad-of-three said: "This is a disgusting way to treat people. They must think we are dogs.
"I need a triple heart bypass. My doctor said I must not work or be exposed to any stress but since I was sacked I haven't slept a wink.
"I can't get another job because of my health and don't know what I'm going to do.
Dad-of-two Paul Aldridge was dismissed despite being off with a broken arm.
Paul, 28, of Bedfont, near Heathrow, said: "I worked for them for five years and they sack me with a hand- delivered letter while I'm in bed. I was physically sick.
"How will I pay the rent? I'm petrified I'll end up in court when I can't pay my bills."
Kirankumar Shah and wife Taramati had taken the day off work at Gate Gourmet to attend a family wedding.
They returned to find two letters on the doormat of their home in Feltham, West London.
He said: "We both cried. I've got a £1,700 a month mortgage and four children to support, including a little baby.
"We haven't slept since. How can we? I'm so worried. I had a heart attack last year and don't want another one.
Mr Shah - who yesterday joined a T&G union protest at Terminal Four - added: "The letter said that we were sacked for taking part in industrial action, but we were at a wedding."
The company's human resources director Andy Cook claimed they had been sent out in error.
He said: "Letters to people who were off sick, on rest days or on holiday were a mistake.
"They can have their jobs back if they wish. It was not malicious."
But legal expert Richard Arthur said last night: "It's likely Gate Gourmet broke employment law in sacking staff this way."