British Gas workers go on strike over 'fire and re-hire' claims - The Solihull Observer

British Gas workers go on strike over 'fire and re-hire' claims

Solihull Editorial 21st Jan, 2021   0

MORE than 1,000 West Midlands British Gas workers are taking strike action – with many volunteering to work for good causes instead.

GMB union members at British Gas will down tools on January 22, 25, 29, 30, 31 and February 1 as cities across the UK lit up with ‘Stop the British Gas Fire’ messages of support.

More than 1,000 GMB members at British Gas in the West Midlands began a fresh seven-day strike on Wednesday over what is says are the company’s strategy to fire them and rehire them on worse terms and conditions.

Dozens of the workers across the region will give up their time while on strike to help good causes including Baby Aid and Active Wellbeing Society, as well as clearing waste land, and picking litter across the region.

Meanwhile overnight, huge messages of support for the striking workers have been projected on the iconic Birmingham Rep Theatre and Library, Grand Central and Utilita Arena buildings in Birmingham.

British Gas engineers and staff voted by 89 per cent to strike after boss of parent company Centrica Chris O’Shea threatened to fire them all if they didn’t ‘accept’ cuts to pay and terms and conditions.

The union says British Gas’s parent company Centrica reported an operating profit (before exceptional items and tax) of £901 million in 2019 while the operating profitability of its UK home heating business rose by 27 per cent in the first six months of 2020.

A Centrica spokesperson said: “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.

“We’re operating in an incredibly competitive market and British Gas has lost too many jobs and too many customers over recent years. “We need to take action to modernise and refocus the company in line with what our customers need now.

“Our pay for engineers will remain the highest in the sector, but we need to get productivity back to where it used to be and for some, we need to increase the working week from 37 to 40 hours.

“We’re not changing base pay or pensions and we will reward increased productivity through additional bonuses.

“Our changes are ultimately to protect and create jobs for the future.’’

The company added it had lost two million energy customers, one million services customers and over half its earnings in the past 10 years.

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