British Gas engineers struck again from 26 February to 1 March, and their dispute against worsening terms and conditions imposed through “fire and rehire” reached 26 days of strikes. Further strikes are planned throughout March and into April, but could be suspended depending on the outcome of an electronic referendum on British Gas’s latest offer. The result is due to be announced on Thursday 4 March.
The GMB union has been running online meetings where members have discussed the deal. It involves a significant additional financial outlay from the employer, and represents some concessions on working time. However, some GMB reps say it does not go far enough on pay protection.
British Gas has “suspended” its “fire and rehire” threat, although in reality this amounts to an extension of the deadline for the imposition of the new contracts to a new date in mid-April. Nevertheless, forcing bosses to budge from a date they said was fixed, and to make concessions of any kind on a contract they said was set in stone, shows the strength of the strikes and the power of workers’ action.
In the week leading up to the latest strikes, British Gas’s parent company Centrica announced profits of £700 million, and paid significant dividends and bonuses to shareholders and bosses, contradicting claims that the company’s finances make the new contracts — with pay cuts and increases to hours — a necessity.
Prior to the latest round of action, a backlog of 230,000 home repairs and 300,000 annual visits had been built up due to the strikes.