More than 7,000 workers at British Gas have staged the first of three planned four-day strikes today in protest over its ‘fire and rehire’ policy that sees staff having to accept pay cuts and cuts to benefits.
According to the GMB union, which is coordinating the strikes, British Gas owner Centrica is “bullying” employees into either accepting worse employment contracts or losing their jobs entirely as part of a ‘fire and rehire’ plan.
Under the re-hire plans, working hours would increase from 37 hours to 40 hours, meaning staff would work an extra 156 hours every year. Employees also claim changes to core hours – changing from 8am to 6pm to 7am to 9pm – means later work would no longer count as overtime.
But Centrica has denied there will be any compulsory job losses and insists workers will be redeployed to other roles and that affected staff had agreed to the terms.
Commenting on the strike, a Centrica spokesperson said: “Base pay and pensions are protected.” It added 83% of workers had already accepted its new terms and conditions. But the GMB union claims that in real terms, salaries are being cut by up to 10%.
Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “British Gas provoked their loyal staff into strike action in the depths of winter by refusing to heed their overwhelming rejection of the fire and rehire pay cuts. Members will not be bullied in the new contract.”
He added: “British Gas should recognise that the only way to end the disruption they provoked is to take fire and rehire pay cuts off the table.”
Changes to contracts come as British Gas is seeking to turn around a torrid few years. The energy provider has lost approximately one million customers in the last two years and Centrica reported a £1 billion loss for 2019.
The strikes are the latest in a series of actions that began in January.