British Gas engineers start five-day strike in ‘fire and rehire’ row amid warnings walkout will cause ‘massive disruption in the depths of winter’

  • Union GMB said its members are  mounting socially distanced picket lines in UK
  • Claim Centrica told workers they will lose jobs if they don’t accept lower pay 
  • Walkout will last for five days, with warnings of further stoppages if no resolution

British Gas engineers have started a five-day strike amid a dispute over accusations of a ‘fire and rehire’ policy.

GMB, the union representing employees of British Gas, said the strike will cause ‘massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter’.

It said several members were mounting socially distanced picket lines across the UK after being ‘provoked’ into taking industrial action.

They claim British Gas’s parent company Centrica tried to force through pay cuts by telling workers they will lose their jobs if they don’t accept them. 

Employees would then be rehired on a lesser-paid contract.

The walkout will last for five days, with warnings of further stoppages if the row is not resolved.

GMB blamed Centrica for ‘provoking’ the action, saying they are causing ‘massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter’, The Sun reports. 

British Gas engineers have started a five-day strike (pictured at a British Gas site in Leicester)  amid a dispute over accusations of a ‘fire and rehire’ policy

GMB, the union representing employees of British Gas, said the strike will cause ‘massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter’ (workers pictured on the picket line in Bothwell)

Centrica hit back, saying that it has done everything possible to avoid strike action and GMB is ‘intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest weekend of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown.’

Centrica has contingency plans to deal with the action, and will prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies, a spokesperson said.

The strike involves around 4,500 service and repair gas engineers, 600 central heating installers, 540 electrical engineers, 170 specialist business gas engineers and 1,700 smart metering engineers, said the union. 

GMB said several members (one pictured at a British Gas site in Leicester) were mounting socially distanced picket lines across the UK after being ‘provoked’ into taking industrial action

GMB (some members pictured) claim British Gas’s parent company Centrica told workers they will lose their jobs if they don’t accept lower pay – only to be rehired on a lesser-paid contract

Justin Bowden, GMB national officer, said: ‘GMB members from Land’s End to John O’Groats have stayed home, stayed safe and supported the first national gas strike in a decade.

‘The months and months of fire and rehire pay cut threats from British Gas chief executive Chris O’Shea have provoked thousands of engineers and call centre staff to strike, the only option left to them by a business that made £901 million operating profit yet still plans to sack them because they won’t accept the scale of cuts it demands.’

The only exceptions to the industrial action will be dealing with emergencies and problems for households with vulnerable people, according to the union.

The walkout (pictured) will last for five days, with warnings of further stoppages if the row is not resolved

GMB (workers pictured) blamed Centrica for ‘provoking’ the action, saying they are causing ‘massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter’, The Sun reports

Centrica hit back, saying that it has done everything possible to avoid strike action and GMB (members pictured on strike today) is ‘intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest weekend of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown’

The strike (some participants pictured) involves around 4,500 service and repair gas engineers, 600 central heating installers, 540 electrical engineers, 170 specialist business gas engineers and 1,700 smart metering engineers, said the union

The strike follows a 9-1 vote in favour of industrial action by members of the GMB, which accused Centrica of moves to ‘fire and rehire’ employees.

A Centrica spokesman said: ‘We’ve done everything we can with the GMB to avoid industrial action.

‘Whilst we’ve made great progress with our other unions, sadly the GMB leadership seems intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest weekend of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown.

‘We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure we will still be there for customers who really need us, and we’ll prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies.’

Centrica has contingency plans to deal with the action (pictured), and will prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies, a spokesperson said

Centrica said it had lost too many customers and jobs in recent years, adding it was trying to protect jobs.

It announced 5,000 job cuts in June last year, which it said would help ‘arrest the decline’

In June, Centrica said it planned to to cut around 5,000 jobs to ‘arrest the decline’ of the gas firm.

‘If we are to avoid more job losses and continue, unlike most in the sector, to maintain a highly skilled team of engineers, employed directly by the company, these new terms and conditions are essential.’

‘A very significant number of engineers striking will have accepted the new terms already,’ it said, adding that four out of five of its workforce had accepted new terms, in which base pay and pensions were protected. 

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