The GMB union has won significant concessions over pensions following the strike before Christmas by 6,000 British Gas engineers.
But the deal the engineers are voting on does not include keeping the final salary pension scheme open to workers who join after March of this year.
Under the deal:
- All existing trainee and qualified engineers who joined the business after 1 January 2003 and who are not already members of the scheme will be offered the opportunity to join.
- British Gas/Centrica has agreed to pay an additional lump sum of £35 million into the scheme and has given written assurances on the security of the provision for existing members.
- New recruits will be able to join a career-average salary section of the scheme. This is better than the money-purchase scheme that was originally on offer but will be inferior to the pension provision for the existing workforce.
It was the defence of pension rights for newcomers that gave the dispute a resonance way beyond British Gas/Centrica.
Though the deal on offer does not achieve that, the dispute has shown it is possible for unions to take action over future pension arrangements and to win concessions.
Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary, says, “Although I am very disappointed that Centrica has refused to reconsider its decision to close the pension scheme to new starters, I am pleased that we have won the opportunity for another 1,700 current employees to join the scheme.”