British Gas workers threatened with fire and rehire tactics have begun five days of strike action, reports Chris Neville
Today is the first of a five-day strike for engineers and call centre workers at British Gas. Thousands of GMB members are fighting back against their employer's attempts to trash their terms and reduce pay using fire and rehire tactics. The strike ballot received a huge 89% vote in favour of action.
New terms proposed by British Gas would see some workers' pay reduced by 10% which is totally unacceptable in any case, but even more so in the context of the hundreds of millions of pounds the company made in profits last year.
In a GMB press release, the union pointed out that British Gas owner, Centrica announced profits of £229 million for its domestic heating business in the UK for the six months to 30 June 2020 which was up 27 per cent on the same period in the previous year. They also criticised the executive behind the decision, Chris O'Shea whose salary is twenty times the salary of a gas engineer.
There will be covid-safe pickets outside offices but engineers are also finding novel ways to promote their activities, such as decorating their parked company vans in placards which outline the key messages of the strike.
A striking gas engineer from Bolton said:
"So, 15 years of service that I have given this company. Some good times, some hard times. We got through it.
A few months ago, myself, and colleagues were asked to blindly accept wholesale changes to our terms and conditions of employment or face being fired and rehired under these new terms. We voted ”NO”. No to the new terms, and we voted to strike over the threats and bullying tactics used by the company.
This isn’t about money, this is about protecting and preserving those terms which we are already employed under.
No Way, O’Shea!"
The timing of the strikes, in the middle of a patch of freezing weather across the UK, will certainly give the management some headaches. This particular struggle shows that a highly unionised workforce has the power to fight back against dodgy corporate practices where executives are happy to throw their loyal workforce on the scrapheap as their own pockets bulge with cash.
Centrica has made thousands of redundancies over the last few years as their profits continued to rise, but now the workers are saying enough is enough!
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