Further strike action threatened as 'fire and rehire' dispute continues

A placard is held on the picket line for a GMB strike of British Gas workers

East Anglian workers are among those are on strike following a dispute between GMB and British Gas. - Credit: PA

British Gas staff in East Anglia are going back to work tomorrow after a five day strike — but further action is threatened as the dispute rumbles on. 

Staff in Norfolk and Suffolk will return to work tomorrow after the strike has come to an end.

The industrial action was called by the GMB union over a proposed new contract by Britain’s biggest energy supplier.

The union said the new deal is an attempt to "fire and rehire" staff on worse conditions, while the company said the deal would allow them to protect jobs as the firm restructures. 

A spokesman for GMB said the union had around 2,000 members working for British Gas in East Anglia and 90% of them had voted in support of the strike action over the deal.

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Throughout the strike engineers have still be responding to emergencies, however.

The spokesman said further strike action was planned from January 20, should the dispute not be resolved.

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Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: "The only way for profitable British Gas to end this massive disruption they are provoking for their customers in the bleak midwinter is to take their outrageous fire and rehire threat off the table. 

“Mr O’Shea’s attempts to bully his loyal workforce into accepting cuts to their terms and conditions appear to have backfired spectacularly. 

“Instead of lashing out at its own workforce, who overwhelmingly rejected his plan and voted to take strike action, the company should look closer to home. Stop threatening to fire the entire engineer workforce and enter constructive discussions with GMB.” 

A spokesman for Centrica, British Gas' parent company, said: "We’ve done everything we can with the GMB to avoid industrial action.

"While we’ve made great progress with our other unions, sadly the GMB leadership seems intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest time of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown.

"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."

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