Some British Gas workers are worried and angry after the GMB union called off strikes for talks on Friday.
Workers had already struck for 15 days after parent company Centrica announced plans to fire and rehire workers on worse contracts.
On social media workers said that they received emails from GMB and Centrica on Friday morning explaining what the negotiations would be about. They say the emails made no mention of fire and rehire.
Alex, a British Gas worker, told Socialist Worker, “We were close to achieving what we set out to do and then we stopped. I really think British Gas could have backed down if we carried on this weekend.
“It’s so damaging for them. It’s difficult knowing people are struggling, but this is my livelihood on the line.”
“The GMB has said from the start that you cannot negotiate with a gun to your head—that gun is the threat of us being fired.
“This just feels like a stalling tactic to me.”
Alex added that “now a lot of us feel disillusioned”. “The strike is completely about removing fire and rehire,” he said. “The union said it’s impossible to negotiate with that looming, and they will not stop until that is removed.”
Other workers feel that entering negotiations is a step in the right direction.
Kevin, a British Gas worker and union rep, told Socialist Worker that the union had “come to a breakthrough.” “British Gas repeatedly told us that they had made their final offer and there would be no further negotiations,” he said.
“They said that we should accept this new deal, leave of our own accord or be fired on March 31. The fact that we even got them to move to the negotiating table shows the success of our strike.”
After an online meeting, workers voted on whether to suspend the action.
Kevin said that workers “narrowly” voted to call off strikes. He pointed out that even though strikes didn’t go ahead on Friday workers could still hold further walkouts.
An impressive 89 percent of British Gas workers voted to strike to end fire and rehire last year. Workers are right to be concerned that negotiations could fall short of their central demand—ending fire and rehire.
And even if bosses withdrew fire and rehire, there should be no detriment to workers’ pay or terms and conditions in a deal.
Continuing the strikes is the best way to force British Gas to meet all of the workers’ demands and to fight back against any more attacks. A win for British Gas workers would be inspire other groups facing fire and rehire and other attacks.