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Changes to contracts – British Gas staff may consider strike

After claims that staff will be forced to accept worse employment contracts or face dismissal, British Gas employees are threatening to strike.

Voting in favour of industrial action are 95% of the 10,000 strong GMB Union and the subsidiary company PH Jones. A conservative ballot was held earlier in August with a turnout of 67.5%.

While this is not an official ballot calling for a strike, the signs are clear that if an agreement is not reached, employees would be willing to strike.

GMB Union stated that people who refused to sign the new contracts had been threatened by BG with dismissal. The new contracts offer less favourable terms and conditions and affect all 20,000 employees.

Centrica – the parent company – made a statement to the union and employee representatives saying that they may terminate some employees and then offer to re-employ them. While the base pay and job descriptions would remain the same, the terms and conditions of employment would change.

 In June 2020 Centrica announced their plans to make 5,000 employees redundant, make the changes to the terms and conditions, and restructure the company into a more ‘customer-focused model.’

Since making this statement Centrica has issued the statutory HR1 and S188 notices to both the union and employee representatives. They indicated that the company would start making redundancies at the end of November ‘as a last resort.’

National secretary for GMB Union Justin Bowden said that the bosses at Centrica were ‘holding a box of matches and threatening to set fire to the T’s & C’s of the workforce who are both dedicated and loyal.’ This, said Mr Bowden, is a complete and utter betrayal of both British Gas and PH Jones.

Mr Bowden went on to say that Centrica has already destroyed the confidence of the employees. The recent vote of 19 to 1 showed clearly that GMB members were not prepared to accept the fire and hire threats.

GMB members are determined to see that their own insurance policy is in place.

‘It is time for the Board at Centrica to wake up and smell the gas.’

When asked about the hire and fire threats, a spokesperson for Centrica said that their T’s & C’s would be in line with the market average. There would be no alterations made to base pay, and pensions would also remain protected.

The spokesperson commented that Centrica knew that change would be difficult. The company is doing all it can to support their employees, although they needed to act immediately if they are to win back customers, grow the company as planned, and protect jobs.

Centrica commented that they are committed to ‘reaching a negotiated settlement’ this year. The settlement would set them up for future success.

It is important to note that GMB union has agreed that change is needed, although they have not said what those changes may be.

Centrica said that they hope that their unions share the same desire as they continue with negotiations.

While employees’ pay and pensions will be protected, it is by simplifying and modernising working practices, along with changing the terms and conditions, that the company can be more flexible in delivering to their customers, namely by giving them ‘what they want, when they want it, and at a price they are willing to pay.’

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