Starting Thursday morning, gas employees in Scotland will strike for five days as part of “biggest dispute in the sector for 40 years.”
In a dispute over a “fire and rehire” scheme, more than 1,000 Scottish gas workers in Scotland will go on strike.
Around 4,500 service and repair gas installers, 600 central heating installers, 540 electrical engineers, 170 specialist gas engineers for companies and 1,700 smart metering engineers will be affected by the strike across the UK, the union said.
In July, the GMB union said thousands of gas and electrical engineers were told they would be fired and then rehired unless they agreed to new terms deemed “draconian” cuts to their conditions by their union, GMB.
The announcement follows a 9-1 vote for industrial action by members of the GMB union, which accused Scottish Gas of preparing cuts to salaries and working conditions for British Gas, which operates north of the border, and Centrica, the parent company.
The union says workers are furious about a decision to lay off and then rehire staff working in the British Gas operations of Scottish Gas, drafted by Chris O’Shea, Chief Executive of Centrica Plc Group. More than 10,000 GMB participants will take part in the action around the UK’s four nations.
GMB says Mr. O’Shea has declined to consider the attempts of GMB to negotiate a way for the company to move forward.
“Instead, after months of talks, workers have been told to accept the cut in pay and conditions or they will be fired,” the union said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hazel Nolan, senior commercial services organizer at GMB Scotland, blamed Centrica executives for their role in creating their own corporate crisis and exploiting workers: “Chris O’Shea will take home a pre-bonus wage of £ 775,000 today, the CEO’s payday, and Centrica has reported an operating profit of £ 901 million for 2019.”
“Chris O’Shea’s anti-worker ‘fire and rehire’ policy will set a dangerous precedent for major UK employers in the grip of a global pandemic and open the floodgates to systemic assaults on the employment, wages and conditions of workers. This isn’t how a country is restored.
GMB workers are told that they will be made obsolete and then required to embrace new conditions – pay, pension and holiday cuts around the board. Take it or leave it. Centrica is turning a cowboy contract worker into a once-great British industrial organization.
“We have no choice but to fight back.”
“GMB leadership is stuck in the past, fighting modernization and not understanding that customer demands are changing; customers want better schedules and we need more flexibility to serve them,” said a Centrica spokesman.
“If we can’t change the way we operate, we can’t do it, and our customers will turn to our competitors,” he said.
Our new terms and conditions are fair and most of our staff, including thousands of members of the GMB, agree that we need to improve.
“We now expect well over 75 percent of our colleagues to have agreed by the end of the year.”
A group of Coss Party MPs called on Centrica bosses three weeks ago to withdraw the threat of redundancy and eventual rehire of the engineering staff of British Gas.
Also in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked for his support for the workers.
According to the union, the only exceptions to strike action will be coping with emergencies and issues for poor households as temperatures drop and the country enters a third national lockout.
GMB national official Justin Bowden said the actions of British Gas have “damaged” the image of the firm.
“The use of fire and reinstatement threats has been condemned across the political spectrum and has caused great anger among the dedicated workforce,” he said.
“There is still time for British Gas to come to its senses, withdraw the threats of dismissal and reinstatement and negotiate a fair settlement to avoid a strike.”
The employees were “provoked” to take industrial action, Mr. Bowden said.
Centrica, which operates British Gas and Scottish Gas, announced plans to slash 5,000 jobs in June as the business tries to do better in the midst of