More than 7,000 engineers at energy giant British Gas began a five-day strike on Thursday against a major assault on their working conditions.
Members of the GMB union voted overwhelmingly for strikes after bosses announced plans to force them onto zero-hours style contracts.
Centrica, British Gas’s parent company, wants to cut pay, terms and conditions by firing workers and rehiring them on the worse contracts. Management issued an ultimatum for workers to agree to cuts by 23 December last year on pain of dismissal.
Chris Fulcher, said on Twitter, “I’m a British Gas engineer of 23+ years service, I’ve given over half my life to the company.
“My reward for such loyalty is BG adopting Fire and rehire tactics to impose new T&Cs”.
Another, Chris Nelson, tweeted that he had “17 years of loyal service to #BritishGas. Working all the way through the pandemic, even working in properties with confirmed cases of covid-19. Fixing heating and hot water for vulnerable customers.
“The thank you I received was the threat of fire and rehire.”
The strikers received widespread support and messages of solidarity on social media. Striker Daniel shared a message from a supporter on why they were backing the strike.
It said, “One of the reasons engineers are striking is to protect the customers long term.
“Under the new T&Cs, engineers will be given unrealistic time allowances for every job. As soon as they arrive at your house the clock is ticking. If they don’t complete the job in the time given, they’ll be penalised, but rewarded if they complete faster than the allowance.
“They won’t be able to do the thorough job you need and deserve, which could compromise your safety. You don’t want them to rush when working with something as dangerous as gas! Not sure how your thermostat works? They won’t have time to explain it to you.”
The message added, “Every day, engineers also go above and beyond, helping elderly and vulnerable people with easy little odd jobs such as fixing cupboard doors.
“Imagine how they will feel when they tell them the engineer tells them they can’t help them/chat with them as British gas will penalise them for taking extra time.”
The strike involves some 4,000 service and repair gas engineers 600 central heating installers, 540 electrical engineers, 170 specialist business gas engineers and 1,700 smart metering engineers. It is set to end at midnight on Monday next week.
As workers in many other industries face similar fire and rehire battles, victory for the British Gas strikers could inspire wider resistance.