British Gas engineers who have not agreed to new, inferior, contracts face dismissal on 14 April, as their battle with their bosses' “fire and rehire” offensive reaches its culmination.
The engineers, who are members of the GMB union, will strike again on 14 April, the day the new contracts are set to be imposed. The union plans mass pickets at various locations throughout the country. A survey of members returned an 86% majority for a renewed dispute around specific issues in the new contracts. When the contracts were announced, GMB said they would lead to:
• An overall 15% reduction in the basic rate of pay
• A levelling down of holiday entitlement, representing a loss of up to a week’s holiday for many workers
• A move to an across-the-board 40-hour week, an increase in working hours for many workers
• A new bonus scheme that could see workers deducted pay if they are less active during certain periods of their shift
• A reduction in sick pay, to 13 weeks full pay followed by 39 weeks half pay (currently 24 weeks full pay, 24 weeks half pay)
• A three-year pay freeze for all workers except smart-meter installers
• Rostering changes representing up to an additional 156 working hours per year for some workers
• An increase in compulsory weekend working.
The gas engineers' determined campaign of strikes – 14 April is the 43rd strike day – has forced some concessions, including some pay protection. British Gas initially wanted to grant those concessions only to workers who signed the contracts by certain deadlines, but will now give them to all workers who sign by midday on 14 April. Nevertheless, the contracts will still see engineers working longer for less, with work/life balance severely impacted.
The GMB says it will move to a “national lockout dispute” from 14 April, and has made clear it is prepared to take further industrial action. Discussions about the strategy for the next phase of the campaign, including which issues to foreground and what forms of action to aim for, are ongoing within the union. 14 April must not be a token last hurrah.