Around 7,000 British Gas strikers returned to the picket lines on Friday after bosses offered them a new contract that was just a “rehash” of old proposals.
The GMB union members are battling parent company Centrica’s decision to fire and rehire workers on significantly worse contracts. Its poor offer of a revised contract came just as it announced operating profits of almost £700 million.
Workers will have been on strike for 23 days on Friday—and will continue on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
British Gas engineer David said that the new deal is largely the same as the one made to workers in December. “In this new contract engineers will still need to work an additional 156 hours for nothing,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Sick pay has been reduced and will be removed entirely if you don’t opt into a private healthcare scheme.
“The core hours have changed to increase unsociable working hours. And engineers will also need to work from a rolling 6 week roster which can change depending on customer demand.
“The new deal is essentially a rehash of the original deal.”
But David added that the company now says it will pay workers up to £4,000 to accept this new contract.
Alex, another British Gas striker, says he’s dubious about the company’s promises to not use fire and rehire in the future. “They’ve said they won’t use fire and rehire again, but they’ve not said they won’t use it next month,” he told Socialist Worker.
He said the GMB will bring a vote to members next week on whether to accept the new contract.
Alex said continuing the strikes is vitally important. “It’ll be a waste of time if we don’t keep striking,” he said. “The company said a million times in December it wouldn’t make another offer as there was nothing in the budget.
“But that makes no sense now we’ve been offered a £4,000 bribe to accept.
He added, “It’s never been about money either. It’s about weekends and unsociable hours. Most of us don’t want to sign our lives away to the company it doesn’t matter what money they offer.”
David added, “I won’t be signing the new contract. To still be offered such a pitiful deal shows the lack of respect the business is showing to the people who keep the wheels moving.
“The people at the bottom make those at the top very, very, very rich.”
David said he can’t accept because that would mean being “bullied into accepting inferior terms when I know the job I do is worth so much more”.
The 31 March—the date when British Gas says it will sack worker who haven’t signed contracts—is fast approaching.
The offer shows that strikes are working and the company is under pressure to bribe the workforce. But only more strikes will force British Gas to bend to workers’ demands and defend them from any future attacks.
Workers should vote to continue the strikes.