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Volume 51 Number 5, February 13, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

End "Fire and Rehire"! British Gas Strikers Persist in Crucial Struggle

GMB on February 5 announced 12 more days of British Gas strike action in the fire and rehire dispute which is now expected to continue until at least April. The fresh industrial action will be in three lots of four-day strikes, each beginning at 00.01 hours on February 12, February 19 and February 26 - ending at 23.59 on March 1.

Around 7,000 British Gas engineers have stood firm during 12 days of industrial action in anger against imposed cuts to their terms and conditions which would see many expected to work up to 150 extra unpaid hours a year. GMB points out that there are more than 170,000 homes in a backlog for repairs and 200,000 planned annual service visits have been axed by the company.

The action of the workers at British Gas is taking place in the conditions of the economic and Covid-19 crises where, despite companies like British Gas continuing to increase the value extracted from the workers, "fire and rehire" is being used more widely by the rich who dictate terms. It is on the way to becoming a "new normal", as happened with "zero-hours" contracts and the gig economy.

As Workers' Weekly has pointed out: "Workers will not stand for this, and that is why so many voted for strike action. They refuse to be treated as a so-called human resource on the one hand and a cost on the other. It is not a confrontation they wanted, but it is the company that ruptured relations; striking was a 'last resort' from the workers' perspective. But workers accepted their stand as necessary faced with the attitude and response of Centrica. There should be no sackings, conditions should not be arbitrarily determined by the company, and there should be no imposition of new contracts without discussion. The workers know that in the end, it is matter of who is in control and who decides."

GMB is asking people to sign this letter to the board of British Gas

[https://www.gmb.org.uk/campaign/tell-british-gas-board-stop-fire-and-rehire].

Financial support is also welcome via contributions to the strike fund

[https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/british-gas-strike-fund]

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said:


Striking British Gas workers at the famous Iron Bridge at Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale, Shropshire

"GMB's Central Executive Council (CEC) concluded the British Gas CEO is doubling down on his fire and rehire cuts in pay and conditions for Field staff.

"In response, the CEC determined on strike action through to mid-April.

"Mr O'Shea is pressing on despite telling Parliament his acceptance of dodgy legal advice led to strikes and the breakdown of trust with his field staff.

"This in turn has led to more than 170,000 households already in a backlog for repairs and 200,000 service visits axed.

"The 83% figure is not relevant in that it mainly includes staff from other bargaining groups.

"The majority of the field staff are not prepared to accept the imposed cuts to pay and conditions.

"Mr O'Shea threw down the gauntlet to the gas engineers on hated fire and rehire and they picked it up.

"The CEC determined they should be supported on behalf of the entire membership of the union and other union members.

"Longer term, the practice of fire and rehire should be outlawed.

"The CEC will consider the matter again at its April meeting."


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