GMB members at British Gas begin five-day strike in ‘fire and rehire’ dispute

GMB members at British Gas begin five-day strike in ‘fire and rehire’ dispute

- in GMB
GMB British Gas strike

British Gas engineers have started a five-day strike from today (Thursday 7 January) in a dispute over new employment contracts.

Thousands of British Gas staff have walked out today in a response by the company to force through pay cuts by threatening to fire workers, the GMB union said.

The strike action comes after GMB conducted a ballot of its members in December, with an overwhelming 89% voting in favour of taking industrial action. According to the union, the vote was taken after British Gas parent company Centrica said that it would impose controversial ‘fire and rehire’ cuts to workers’ pay and terms.

As well as the five-day strike, GMB says that various pickets have been organised across the country – which have been arranged in accordance with the government’s latest COVID-19 and social distancing guidance.

In total, more than 7,500 staff could walk out, although Centrica said GMB had committed to ensure emergency callouts were not affected, adding that it also had contractors that it could call upon.

A Centrica spokeswoman said: “We’ve done everything we can with the GMB to avoid industrial action.

“While we’ve made great progress with our other unions, sadly the GMB leadership seems intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest weekend of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown,” she said.

“We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure we will still be there for customers who really need us.”

In a statement released today, GMB said: “GMB is calling on the public to ask why British Gas CEO Mr O’Shea is provoking an engineers’ strike with ‘fire and rehire’ pay cuts, in the depths of winter.

“This is against the backdrop of the company reporting operating profits of £901m in the latest available annual accounts. (Centrica PLC recorded a group-wide operating profit of £901m in 2019, the company’s accounts reveal).

“And Centrica declared an adjusted operating profit of £229 million for its domestic heating business in the UK for the six months to 30 June 2020 – up 27 per cent on the same period in the previous year.”

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “GMB members from Land’s End to John O’Groats have stayed home, stayed safe and supported the first national gas strike in a decade.

“The months and months of fire and rehire pay cut threats from British Gas CEO Chris O’Shea have provoked thousands and thousands of GMB engineers and call centre staff to strike, the only option left to them by a business that made £901m operating profit yet still plans to sack them because they won’t accept the scale of cuts it demands.”

Many British Gas workers have taken to social media to voice their support for the strike, with the hashtag #StopTheBritishGasFire trending throughout the day:

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