FORTY striking pickets gathered at the Gas Training Centre in Dartford yesterday, to protest against the ‘Fire and Rehire’ policy of Centrica, who now run British Gas.
Gary Pearce, the regional gas organiser for the GMB union, told News Line, that all the gas engineers that do not sign the imposed new contract from Centrica will be sacked.
‘This is a company which made a 27% profit in 2019 on the gas services heating division. – the only profitable part of the business.
‘There are around 6,000 gas engineers nationally and 2000 in London.
‘O’Shea, (the chief executive) is coming after these lads and lasses who worked in people’s houses where people tested positive for Covid-19 throughout the dispute.
‘They even made sure that vulnerable people had hot water and heating, and worked throughout the pandemic with the Trussel trust, delivering food parcels to the vulnerable.
‘The dispute started on the 1st January. The company gave the workers till the first of April to sign the new contracts, and extended the deadline till today.
‘The company bypassed the union. They have attacked the union structures by reducing the number of reps and national reps.
‘But we will now be entering into a “lockdown dispute”. We will continue with strike action and action short of a strike.’
One of the striking pickets, Toby, said: ‘I have been working in the industry for 20 years. Our new CEO, Chris O’Shea adopted a “Fire and Re-hire” policy and walked out of negotiations with the union.
‘The dispute started in January, in the Covid lockdown. We went on working. Some of those on furlough delivered food parcels at management’s request and they told us “we are proud of you still working”.
‘All the time, they were preparing the “Fire and Re hire”. What they want us to do is; longer hours of work; no extra pay; work bank holidays and less holidays overall, and no overtime.
‘If we did not accept these terms, with contracts put to us individually, we would be sacked. Those who haven’t signed are being sacked today. Their vans and all the tools have been taken off them.
‘The pressure and anxiety that the management team created has forced many engineers to leave. More than 1,000 colleagues have not signed up.
‘The management utter threats. O’Shea is a bully boy. This is the 42nd strike. People have signed under duress and are still going to strike and keep up the fight. I’m not voting Tory.’