GAS WORKERS in Scotland are to begin a fresh seven day wave of strikes from Wednesday as part of the “biggest dispute seen in the sector for 40 years”.
Over 1,000 Scottish Gas workers in Scotland are expected to take part in the action in a dispute over a “fire and rehire” cuts to pay and terms and conditions.
Members of the GMB union say they will withdraw their labour on Wednesday 20, Friday 22, Monday 25, Friday 29, Saturday 30, Sunday 31 January and Monday February 1.
They believe that the disruption has meant that those waiting for service number more than 100,000 across the UK. This is denied by Centrica.
Centrica which owns British/Scottish Gas told the before the first wave of stoppages that they have done everything they could to avoid industrial action.
They have had contingency plans in place to allow them to continue to serve customers with the majority being carried out by their own engineers and also with the help of existing contractors.
The GMB union said that thousands of gas and electrical engineers were told in July that if they did not agree new terms and conditions, which their union the GMB characterised as containing “draconian” cuts to their terms and conditions, they would be “fired then rehired.”
The strike follows a 9-1 vote in favour of industrial action by members of the GMB union, which has accused British Gas, which trades as Scottish Gas north of the border, and parent firm Centrica of planning to cut pay, terms and conditions.
Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary said: “The strike is stepping up a gear this week with further days of action, with the company apparently disregarding its customers and its obligations. “In the face of growing employee and customer discontent, and after the first round of the biggest and most successful gas strike in decades, the management of profitable British Gas continue to bury their heads in the sand.
“British Gas workers have already rejected pay cuts on pain of fire and rehire, yet in the face of condemnation across the political spectrum, Chris O’Shea refuses to listen to his workforce despite Centrica being a company of underlying profitability.
“Instead of lashing out the engineers who overwhelmingly rejected his plan and voted to take strike action, Mr O’Shea should withdraw fire and rehire and enter constructive discussions with GMB to avert further disruption.”
Centrica, Britain’s biggest energy supplier, told the : “We’re operating in an incredibly competitive market and British Gas has lost too many jobs and too many customers over recent years. We can’t continue like this.
“We need to take action to modernise and refocus the company in line with what our customers need now, not what they needed 20 years ago. 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. 83 per cent of our employees have already accepted the new terms – including the majority of our engineers. Our changes are ultimately to protect and create jobs for the future.’’
Five weeks ago, a cross-party group of MPs urged Centrica’s bosses to withdraw any threat of firing and then rehiring the British Gas engineering workforce.
The prime minister Boris Johnson was also asked for his support for workers in the House of Commons.
The only exceptions to the industrial action were to be dealing with emergencies and problems for households with vulnerable people as temperature’s plummet and the nation enter a third national lockdown, according to the union.
In June Centrica said it was to cut 5,000 jobs as the company tries to set a new course amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Centrica said it would strip out three layers of management to slimline the business and cut down on bureaucracy.
Around half of the 5,000 lost jobs were to lost among the company’s leadership, management and corporate staff.
In February, Centrica delivered its worst financial results since 2015, reporting a pre-tax loss of £1.1 billion for 2019 massively down from a £575 million profit in 2018.
Adjusted operating profits generated by British Gas fell by 71 per cent to £137 million, the lowest in the supplier’s history.
The first wave of strike action within British/Scottish Gas began on January 7.
At the start of the strike action, Centrica told the : “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.
“Over 83% of our workforce have already accepted our new terms, in which base pay and pensions are protected, including a significant majority of GMB members. This shows most of our people understand that our business needs to change because customer needs are changing. GMB’s mandate for strike action is weak; they are fighting against modernisation and changes which will help to protect well paid jobs in the long term and are doing so at a time that our country needs everyone to pull together.”