Around 7,000 British Gas workers are preparing for another week of strikes in their fight against bosses’ fire and rehire plans.
The GMB union members were set to walk out on Monday, the third day in their second round of industrial action. They are fighting against parent company Centrica’s plan to sack and rehire many thousands of workers on worse pay and terms and conditions.
Despite freezing weather, British Gas workers took to picket lines and held protests last Wednesday and Friday to raise support for the struggle.
The union projected the words “Stop the British Gas fire” on major monuments and buildings around Britain.
Kevin, a striking British Gas engineer and GMB union rep in the Merseyside area, spoke to Socialist Worker about what it’s like to work for the company. “Our jobs have changed drastically over the years,” he explained. “Our managers have now turned into sales managers.
“This job used to be all about safety. Now the bosses are more interested in us selling customers a new boiler.”
Workers are set for further strikes this Friday, Saturday and Sunday and next Monday.
In July the boss of Centrica, Chris O’Shea, announced plans to fire and rehire the workforce if they didn’t comply with new contracts. “We were met with a barrage of emails, texts and phone calls about it from head office about signing the contract,” said Kevin.
“We were told that most of our colleagues had already signed up for the new terms and conditions.”
Kevin said the company even attempted to bribe workers into submission. “In December the company offered us a transition payment. They offered us £2,500 and extra holiday leave if we signed.”
He added that bosses’ pressure means the number of colleagues off work due to sickness is “through the roof”.
British Gas bosses have told the workers that if they don’t sign contracts by 31 March they will lose their jobs. They are banking on a time of hardship for many to force workers to accept the changes.
But Kevin said they’ve “made the mistake of picking on a workforce that is highly unionised”. “A lot of engineers won’t sign this contract,” he said. “We are skilled workers and our skills are in demand.
“We aren’t going to blink first.”
Every trade unionist should support the British Gas workers’ fight.
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