British Gas engineers are to launch a five-day strike beginning on Thursday in a dispute over new contracts.
Thousands of staff are planning to down tools as a push back against British Gas’ attempt to push through pay cuts by threatening to fire workers, according to union GMB.
GMB told British Gas on 17 December that members had responded to the company’s “fire and rehire” with an 89% “yes” vote for strike action.
This followed a vote by 86% of gas and electrical engineers in a ballot of 9,000 members last month to reject cuts to pay and conditions for gas repair and service staff of up to 10%.
In total, more than 7,500 staff could walk out.
GMB tweeted on Thursday: “Today we make history. Today is the start of the biggest gas workers’ strike in living memory. Today we tell British Gas to think again.”
Today we make history.
Today is the start of the biggest gas workers’ strike in living memory.
Today we tell British Gas to think again.#StopTheBritishGasFire
— GMB Union (@GMB_union) January 7, 2021
The union said that British Gas owner Centrica (CNA.L) had provoked the strike, which is likely to cause “massive disruption.”
Centrica said it would prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies during the walkout, according to the BBC.
In a statement to the BBC, GMB national secretary Justin Bowden said the actions of British Gas had “tarnished” its reputation.
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“The use of fire and rehire threats has been condemned across the political spectrum and caused huge anger among this dedicated workforce,” he said.
He said that the strike would cause “massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter.”
A Centrica spokesperson told Yahoo Finance UK: “We’ve done everything we can with the GMB to avoid industrial action. 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.”
Centrica said GMB had committed to ensure emergency callouts were not affected, saying that it also had contractors that could be called out.
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