Socialist Worker

British Gas workers return to strikes to beat back bosses’ assault

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2740

Picketing Centrica headquarters this week

Picketing Centrica headquarters this week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Thousands of British Gas workers are heading for their ninth day of strikes on Friday to push back at bosses' plans to fire and rehire the workforce.

This latest strike is for four days—Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

GMB union members are fighting plans from parent company Centrica to rehire workers on worse pay and terms and conditions.

Dan, a British Gas engineer, told Socialist Worker, “In the new contracts the company is offering they’re taking our average working hours from 37 hours to 40 hours a week.

“But they are not elevating our pay with it. We’ll be working an extra three hours for nothing.”

And Dan also pointed out that workers have been risking their health going into people’s homes during a pandemic and didn’t expect to now be treated so badly.

Cutting workers' rights and salaries during a pandemic, it’s really a kick in the teeth,“ he said.

Support

The strikes have won widespread support for and are putting more pressure on British Gas bosses to scrap their plans.

The GMB says that the company now has a repair backlog of 150,000 homes. And 200,000 routine annual boiler service visits have been cancelled so far this month.

Now 71 percent of people who use British Gas surveyed by the GMB say that they would look to go elsewhere after strikes. And 47 percent of people surveyed think that savings could be made at Centrica by cutting the pay of the top bosses.

‘Bosses made a mistake picking on us,’ say British Gas workers ahead of further strikes
‘Bosses made a mistake picking on us,’ say British Gas workers ahead of further strikes
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This has prompted British Gas to be called in front of a select committee of MPs who will ask why cuts are being made when the company is still making hundreds of millions in profit.

Justin Bowden GMB national secretary, said, ”There are serious questions as to why a profitable British Gas is treating customers and staff so badly.

“There are serious questions as to why the law allows a profitable British Gas to invent a crisis to try to impose an hourly rate 15 percent lower than agreed rates and other adverse changes in conditions on its field engineers through the ‘fire and rehire’ mechanism.

Dan added, “The political pressure the company is now under is massive. Fire and rehire is being called immoral.”

The pressure now being put on British Gas is down to action taken by workers who are clear that they want to make bosses everywhere think twice about using fire and rehire.

“If this plan goes ahead it will happen in a lot of other companies. This isn’t just a British Gas dispute, there's nothing to stop this from happening in other companies. So really we have to fight our case,” said Dan.

“Hold in there, we will win this. Morally the company doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”

The whole trade union movement must get behind this strike and make fire and rehire an unacceptable practice everywhere.


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


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