British Gas strikers have voted overwhelmingly to continue their strikes against bosses’ fire and rehire plans and returned to the picket lines on Friday.
GMB union members voted by 79 percent—on an 88 percent turnout—to reject the offer of a new contract. They are demanding that parent company Centrica drops plans to fire and rehire them on worse terms and conditions on 31 March.
Friday marked the workers’ 27th day of action—and they will continue their walkout until Monday.
British Gas striker Mike told Socialist Worker he was “jubilant” after hearing the results of the vote. “We stood together to show British Gas we won’t be bullied into a deal that wasn’t even near acceptable,” he said.
“I’m happy we stuck together and really showed the senior leaders of the company how we feel. Hopefully it sends a strong message to them that the solidarity we have shown is confidence building and morale boosting.”
The vote came after British Gas and the GMB entered negotiations at government conciliation service Acas. The talks led to a new offer, which many strikers said was a “rehash” of the old one.
The deal still increased unsociable working hours and meant that workers would work more hours for less pay. The company did offer strikers a bribe of up to £4,000 to sign the contract.
British Gas believed that threatening workers with sackings on March 31 would make them sign the new contracts. But the strikers have proved they won’t be forced into signing up to a bad deal.
Farridin, another British Gas striker, wrote on Twitter, “You can’t bully people into doing more.”
After the results of the vote came in, Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea hit out at the union. “While we’ve reached collective agreements with the majority of our trade unions, we have been unable to secure an agreement with the GMB,” he said.
He complained that was “despite two extensive rounds of talks and making significant concessions.”
O’Shea also omitted that Centrica could be about to take on 1,000 new workers “as a result of making changes to our contracts.”
Yet the company continues to threaten sacking up to 7,000 workers who are striking to defend their livelihoods.
The strikes have forced the company to make concessions—escalating them can force more from the bosses.
An all-out strike could have the power to take fire and rehire completely off the table and repel attacks on workers’ conditions.