Socialist Worker

‘Fire and rehire will be the norm if we don’t fight,’ says British Gas striker

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2738

British Gas workers during a strike against bosses fire and rehire plans earlier this month

British Gas workers during a strike against bosses' fire and rehire plans earlier this month (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Thousands of British Gas workers were set to strike on Wednesday and Friday this week, and Monday next week.

British Gas’s parent company Centrica wants to fire workers and rehire them on worse pay, terms and conditions.

It has threatened to make widespread redundancies if workers don’t sign the new contracts.

Workers are furious that bosses are trying to make their lives worse while lining their own pockets. In 2019 Centrica grabbed profits of £901 million.

Over 500 people attended an online strike rally on Monday night to show their solidarity with the strike.

Ciara, a British Gas engineer, explained why it is vital that workers stop the new contracts.

“Fire and rehire will become the norm if we don’t fight back,” she said. “This is not just about us, this is about all workers.”

Jack Bowden, GMB union national secretary said, “The scale of the cuts and changes the business has said it will impose by fire and rehire is not justified.

“It’s entirely unnecessary and these figures lay that bare.”

Centrica has disgracefully tried to attack the workers, saying they shouldn’t take action during the pandemic.

It claimed the GMB leadership is “intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest time of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown”.

But it’s the bosses’ decision to savage workers during the pandemic that is to blame for the disruption.

Other unions should be acting in solidarity with the strike, not making cosy deals with the company.

British Gas workers, many of whom have worked at the company for over a decade, have taken to Twitter to explain why they are taking action.

Successful

This week’s action follows a successful strike by 7,000 workers over the plans earlier this month.

The action caused significant disruption. Around 100,000 homes are currently waiting for a British Gas service. Strikers say the public is on their side and their action has been met with widespread support on social media.

Paul, an engineer from the Midlands, told the rally, “The progress that we made in the first five days of the strike was fantastic.

“Going into our next round of strikes it has become clear we won’t be divided or defeated.”

Paul said that taking action has boosted workers’ morale.

“We have had people who have felt bullied into going into work,” he said. “Now they don’t feel alone.

“If we keep this unity we can win.”

Further strikes are set for 29, 30 and 31 January and 1 February.

A victory for British Gas workers would be a boost for all those facing fire and rehire attacks.

It would show that it is possible to push back against employers, even during a pandemic.

Send solidarity to British Gas workers at gmb.org.uk/campaign/back-british-gas-workers
 

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