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British Gas workers to strike due to “fire and rehire” plans

Thousands of British Gas workers will strike from Thursday as part of a five-day strike in response to the company’s “fire and rehire” plans.

Thousands of British Gas workers will strike from Thursday as part of a five-day strike in response to the company’s “fire and rehire” plans.

British Gas Workers On strike

89% of the GMB trade union’s 9,000 British Gas members voted in favour of striking after talks with the company’s executives broke down last year.

The majority of the 7,000 engineers and 2,000 call centre workers will take part, but will restrict picketing due to Covid restrictions. British Gas wanted to reduce the workforce and move employees on to new contracts.

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, has been accused of “bullying” its 20,000 employees to accept worse employment contracts or lose their jobs as part of a so-called “fire and rehire” plan.

The FTSE-listed company has lost more than three-quarters of its market value in the last five years and has justified the move as a way to simplify the business.

British Airways tried a similar approach with its employees last year but the airline decided against the decision following public backlash and trade union talks.

GMB’s national secretary, Justin Bowden, said: “British Gas boss Chris O’Shea’s attempts to bully workers into accepting cuts to their pay and terms and conditions has provoked this inevitable outcome – massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter and a stain on the reputation of an historic company and brand.

There will still be some British Gas workers during the strikes as 7,000 frontline office workers represented by the Unison trade union accepted the energy company’s new terms last month, and 4,000 non-unionised staff also agreed to sign new contracts.

A Centrica spokesperson 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.”

British Gas announced that it has “strong contingency plans in place” and will “prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies”. British Gas has lost 1 million customers in recent years as the energy market is being saturated with cut-price energy supply start-ups. Centrica reported a £1bn loss for 2019 and has warned investors that there would be a steep slump in revenues in 2020.

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