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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Pay cuts for Gas Workers

by New Worker correspondent

BRITISH GAS workers are continuing their strike action in opposition to a “fire and rehire” strategy by bosses.

Their union, GMB states that their 12 days of strikes have created a backlog of 170,000 home repairs and 200,000 service visits.

The profitable BG is attempting to reduce pay by 15 per cent and impose other adverse changes. Despite the 12 days of strikes the field engineers bargaining group are still solidly against the new contract.

Management claims that most of the workforce are happy with the changes are false because the dispute only affects field engineers. Talks at conciliation service ACAS were fruitless because BG refused to take ‘fire and rehire’ off the table.

GMB point out that BG’s owner Centrica is profitable and recorded a group-wide operating profit of £901 million with the domestic heating business making £229 million in the year before June 2020, this representing a 27 per cent increase. But Centrica claim they have lost two million energy customers, one million service customers and over half their earnings over the last decade and made a £1.1 billion unadjusted loss in 2019. This, they say, makes in necessary to cut 5,000 of its 20,000 jobs.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: “GMB started with town gas then moved to natural gas and on to digital technology. Change won’t stop there. Members are not afraid to embrace a new future with investment in the latest in diagnostic technologies to pave the way for the ‘engineers of the future’ programme. But members will not be bullied in the new contract”.

He accused the firm of “A lethal mix of deceit, a failure to grasp reality and wishful thinking that engineers will acquiesce on pay 15 per cent below agreed rates and other changes,” which “has led to a complete breakdown in industrial relations between British Gas and the field engineers bargaining group”.

Labour MP Stephen Doughty has accused Centrica’s CEO Chris O’Shea of lying to him in September, when he denied issuing notices of dismissal, when in fact they had.

five years

Big Issue, the magazine sold in aid of homeless people, quotes Fife-based engineer Bill Hawthorne, who has been with BG for five years, who said he stands to lose between £8,000–£15,000 per year.

He added that: “I think that there is a domino effect for other companies too. British Airways started this threat of fire and rehire and now BG is flexing their muscles? We see BG as a company that’s very family-orientated with a flexible workforce, but the new terms and conditions aren’t going to give us that.” He added that: “During COVID times we’re not only gas engineers, but counsellors for people. Most people we meet, we go in and they’re lonely.”

The magazine also quoted Dan, an 18-year veteran and sole breadwinner for his family in the south of England, who said the workers are “taking a stand for everyone. It’s kind of like a fight for everyone. Because if it happens here, it’s gonna happen everywhere in society, and if we win there is a chance that British Gas will probably try again in a couple of years. It’s just a nasty way of doing business.”

An anonymous South Wales engineer said the changes will mean that he is expected to work 150 hours extra per year for no extra pay.

In the south London borough of Lewisham, the local Trades Union Council attended a demonstration outside the gas workers’ Livesey Hall in Lower Sydenham and a local councillor expressed his support for the workers saying: “For the sake of your own reputation, it’s time you reined in your out-of-control CEO Chris O’Shea.”