British Gas workers burnt new contracts on Wednesday as they began a fresh round of strikes.
The GMB union members are fighting plans by British Gas’ parent company, Centrica, to fire and rehire them on worse pay and terms and conditions. They plan further walkouts on Friday this week, Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of next week and on Monday 1 February.
Dan, a British Gas engineer, told Socialist Worker, “I decided to take part in this strike because I feel the practice of fire and rehire is deeply immoral.
“There will be shock waves if the company’s board pulls this off—and it will be felt in every home and potentially by every worker in the private sector in Britain.”
In Stockport, Greater Manchester, 25 workers joined a picket line despite new coronavirus legislation that could be used to clamp down on the right to protest.
"What the new chief executive is trying to do would be illegal in many other countries", said a GMB rep on the picket. “If they get away with it, other employers will try it.”
Another striker said, "They want to get more out of us—for less.”
British Gas workers took to Twitter to slam the company. Chris said fire and rehire “is downright disgusting”. And William tweeted, “I should be on call till 8am to help our customers. But instead I'm turning my phone off as part of our strike to remove the threat of fire and rehire.”
Dan pointed out some of the consequences of Centrica’s new contracts. “If the board does not back down, I would be earning less and working more hours for the privilege,” he said. “I would also potentially be marched out the door within a year if my performance doesn’t meet their expectations.
“I will have more hours, less pay, more stress and less job security.”
Workers also pointed out that new contracts will potentially have a big impact on their home and family life.
“I’m striking to protect my family time and the ability to care for my mother.” wrote Chris on Twitter.
Every trade unionist should get behind the British Gas workers’ fight. A win for them would be a win for everyone fighting back against the Tories’ and bosses’ attempts to make workers pay for the coronavirus crisis.