The GMB union’s dispute with British Gas formally ended on 20 July, when the union accepted a new settlement on pay, terms, and conditions. Engineers in GMB had struck for 44 days, but then new contracts were imposed via fire and rehire, with 500 workers leaving the company.
The GMB says the company has made concessions on overtime rates, increasing them to “time-and-a-half”, and on unsocial hours payments, as well as agreeing limits on unsocial hours working. The new deal also strengthens the criteria for emergency call-outs, which potentially gives workers greater grounds to refuse being pressured into unsocial hours working. New starters will also be able to join the existing pension scheme, something British Gas wanted to change.
The union says the deal also “opens the door” for engineers fired for refusing to accept the new contracts to be re-engaged. There is a lack of clarity over the terms. Reps and activists are arguing that anyone who rejoins should be considered to have continuity of service.
The imposed contracts also included a three-year pay freeze; the new settlement gives GMB the right to submit a new pay claim if there is a “significant” increase in inflation, “difficulties in recruitment and retention”, or a return to profitability for the business.
The deal was approved by a 75.5% to 24.5% majority. After a long and bitter dispute, many workers are fatigued, and the concessions secured in negotiations were seen by many as the best that could be achieved. While British Gas succeeded in imposing its contracts, the concessions are real. They would not have been secured without the stand taken in the strikes.