British Gas to sack its entire workforce

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GMB picket line at the British Gas depot in Leicester in January – they will be on the picket line again today

BRITISH Gas is to sack its entire 10,000-strong workforce today, in a vicious attack which has been met with strike action over months by the gas engineers in the latest round of ‘fire and rehire’ by bosses attempting to impose cuts to pay and conditions.

Striking gas engineers have refused to be bullied into ‘accepting’ a 15% cut in pay rates and other imposed changes in terms and conditions. Today is their 43rd day of strike action in this long-running and deadlocked dispute.

British Gas announced in July last year that workers in the Field Staff Bargaining Group, who refused to accept imposed 15% cuts in pay rates and other detrimental changes, would be sacked. The letters confirming the sackings were sent out last week.

The date for the sackings with pay in lieu of notice was changed from Thursday, 1st April to today, Wednesday 14 April, with no explanation.

GMB members at British Gas have already taken 42 days of strike action against the imposition of the 15% cuts in pay rates and other changes via ‘fire and rehire’ notices.

In addition, an official national lockout dispute between British Gas and the union GMB will become effective from today and will include further strike action and action short of a strike.

The strikes have led to a backlog of millions of customers waiting for planned service visits and hundreds of thousands having to wait for emergency repairs. British Gas has suspended sale of the standard boiler service insurance.

Justin Bowden, GMB regional secretary, said: ‘That British Gas doesn’t give a toss for either its customers or staff is evidenced by the mass sacking of the engineers that it badly needs to service these customers.

‘Whilst there is sadly nothing to stop a company bullying its own staff to sign terms they don’t accept, and sacking those who won’t submit to bullying, GMB members will not accept the outcome of this nine months campaign of British Gas bullying. That is why they are staging their 43rd day of strike action on Wednesday, 14 April.

‘We have news for Mr O’Shea and Centrica: this dispute will continue and become an official national lockout dispute. There will be more strikes and action short of strikes.

‘The British Gas leadership disaster reaches its low point (today) with mass sackings of British Gas Engineers – in the only consistently profitable part of the company – by a management team too stupid to see the true value of a uniquely skilled and loyal workforce.

‘With hundreds of thousands waiting in the backlog for service, customers have been treated as collateral and so it seems too will staff – as Mr O’Shea prepares to go down in history as the first major FT listed CEO to carry out mass sackings of his highly skilled and qualified engineers whilst his customers are still waiting for visits.

‘The workforce are Mr O’Shea’s most valuable asset and he will be universally condemned by politicians and the public alike for doing so.

‘The arrogant gamble has been lost. Any fool can start a war and, it seems, ruin a good business. History will not be kind to Mr O’Shea or the Centrica Board who failed to rein in him and his out of control leadership team.’