The GMB union members plan further strikes from 19 to 22 March and 26 to 29 March. They are fighting parent company Centrica’s plan to sack and rehire the workforce on 31 March unless workers sign up to punitive new contracts.
But some workers are worried after the GMB told them they should sign the contract before March 25.
In an email to strikers, seen by Socialist Worker, the union said, “If you plan to stay with British Gas after March 31 and intend to ultimately sign a new contract, our lawyers advice is to do so by noon on March 25 if you want to avoid the loss of protected terms and changes you have fought for.”
British Gas engineer Alex says the company “started to offer the contract to us on an individual basis” after workers voted to reject a deal earlier this month. “We were told that if you don’t sign you lose the negotiated parts of the new deal—which aren’t much,” he told Socialist Worker.
Workers voted to reject this new deal by an impressive 79 percent—on an 88 percent turnout.
Many described it as a “rehash” of the old proposed to them last December.
Workers were then called into individual consultations with management this week, with many expressing online how they felt bullied and harassed during the session.One worker wrote on Twitter, “Some engineers will end up signing the new contract under emotional and mental duress.
“The management will have continually and relentlessly bullied, bribed and threatened their loyal workforce into accepting a significantly inferior contract to what they have.”
Alex added that now workers are being faced with a decision—sign by March 25 with the conditions of the new deal in tact or be fired and rehired.
He is disappointed with the union’s advice, saying, “The whole point of industrial action was to get fire and rehire dropped.”
But a number of workers have said they will hold out after the 31st and won’t sign the new contract.
One British Gas worker, who had done a Twitter poll, said, “Final result of our mini poll.
“I guess it's a small indicator of the feeling and albeit just under 300 votes, the percentage is almost 3-1 not signing.
“Quite encouraging and I'd certainly take that as a positive.”
Through the course of this dispute, workers have voted to keep on striking and to not sign up to bad contracts. They have faced the financial pressure of striking as well as bullying from management.
But the GMB bureaucracy has failed to offer leadership at key points.
The British Gas strikers have the power to win this fight—but that means stopping the union leader's hesitations and escalating the action.