The GMB union – which represents British Gas workers – says “turkeys don’t vote for Christmas” as members vote overwhelmingly to reject Centrica’s proposals to change employment contracts.
Electricity and gas engineers at British Gas have rejected a change to their contracts which their trade union says will lead to a significant reduction in their pay.
GMB said the ballot of 7,500 members resulted in an 86% vote against the proposals from parent company Centria, in a move that takes the workers closer to potential strike action over winter.
The union claims that Centrica’s plan to simplify its structure amounts to a pay cut of up to 10% for its members, as well as reduced employment terms and conditions.
GMB members in British Gas have overwhelmingly REJECTED Centrica’s proposals to cut pay and terms & conditions.
— GMB Union (@GMB_union) December 8, 2020
The union said that a separate ballot is currently taking place with members voting on whether to take industrial action, which is due to be completed on 17 December and could result in disruption to British Gas engineer services from New Year’s Eve.
GMB held a demonstration today outside the HQ of Centrica urging the company to rethink its plans – using the slogan “turkey don’t vote for Christmas” to accuse the company of proposing a “fire and rehire” scheme.
The results of GMB’s ballot came just hours after Centrica revealed that 7,000 if its front-line workers who are represented by UNISON had accepted the new terms and that 4,000 non-unionised staff members were in the process of signing the new contracts.
In a statement, the company said: “In June 2020 we announced significant changes to how we operate, in order to create a simpler, leaner business, focused on allowing us to best serve the changing expectations of our customers.
“The changes included delayering our structure, significantly reducing our management population and a proposal to modernise our colleague terms and conditions to reflect customers’ changing needs.”
Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said that the company is effectively offering its employees a ‘zero-hours’ contract that would seriously affect their work-life balance. He said: “British Gas and Centrica CEO Chris O’Shea must learn the lesson that workers don’t vote for pay cuts any more than turkeys vote for Christmas.
“GMB engineers in British Gas have overwhelmingly rejected Centrica’s proposals to cut pay and terms and conditions, that amount to little more than a zero-hours contract attached to a bonus scheme.
“These unacceptable proposals from British Gas would do extensive damage to the work-life balance of thousands of gas and electrical engineers across the country.
“GMB has written to Centrica Chairman Scott Wheway calling for the fire and rehire threat to be permanently removed and for British Gas to return to the negotiating table.”
In its response to GMB’s ballot on the new terms, Centrica noted that customer services staff who were GMB members had backed the shake-up. Chief executive Chris O’Shea said: “It is very disappointing that despite shaping the proposals with us and UNISON over several months, the GMB changed their mind at the last minute and recommended that their members reject those same proposals.
“It is not too late for the GMB leadership to reverse their march towards industrial action which will harm our customers at the time of year they most need us, and to join the other unions that recommend the negotiated proposals which offer the best rates in the market in return for productivity improvements.”