British Gas engineers burn contracts at Havering Town Hall in defiance of 'sign or be fired'

GMB union representatives demonstrated today, socially-distanced at Havering Town Hall.

GMB union representatives demonstrated today, socially-distanced at Havering Town Hall. - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

British Gas engineers have been demonstrating today outside Havering Town Hall in defiance of the new "sign or be fired" contracts.

The GMB trade union say that their demands are not just about pay, but also about a significant change to the terms and conditions.

"That's not even what the focus is on," says service and repair engineer Toby Golden, "the changes will impact my life on a daily basis hugely."

"Stop the British Gas fire".

"Stop the British Gas fire". - Credit: Adriana Elgueta


When the new contracts are introduced in March, British Gas workers' say their core hours will be extended, losing 27 days off per year, a new six week roster with little flexibility and as well as losing their London living allowance. 

The new pay agreement is also 15 per cent what the union is asking for.

"I worked throughout the pandemic, I went to a house with a lady who had Covid and whose husband had died the day before, but I carried on because it was the right thing to do."


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""It's no way to treat an employee, we just want respect and compassion. It's just to line the pockets of shareholders and streamline the business."

GMB has not agreed to a new pay from Centrica, being offered 15pc less than asked for.

GMB has not agreed to a new pay from Centrica, being offered 15pc less than asked for. - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

"They're removing the protections that those before us worked so hard for. It's also not just about us, if we show an example, other industries can speak up for their rights too."

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An estimated 7,000 workers have downed tools over the company’s March ultimatum. 

The GMB say British Gas engineers and staff initially voted overwhelmingly by 89pc  to strike after boss of parent company Centrica Chris O’Shea threatened to fire them all if they didn’t  “accept”  the cuts and terms and conditions changes. 

An estimated 7,000 workers downed tools over the new contracts.

An estimated 7,000 workers downed tools over the new contracts. - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

The strikes provoked by the company have caused massive disruption already – with an estimated 100,000 homes waiting for service across the country.  

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said:  “This is yet another attempt get through to Mr O’Shea that staff accepting cuts of this magnitude in a profitable company is wishful thinking in the extreme. 

“The company needs to put customers and staff first by abandoning wishful thinking and taking ‘fire and rehire’ off the table."

Engineers and other workers will also down tools on January 25, 29, 30, 31 and February 1.

Engineers and other workers will also down tools on January 25, 29, 30, 31 and February 1. - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

Centrica say that the changes come as the company loses 2million energy customers, 1million services customers and over half their earnings over the past 10 years. 

They responded that many engineers already work 40 hours and as part of the deal the ones who are due an increase in hours will retain their generous 28 days holiday.

They stressed the business accepts that work life balance is incredibly important and will only roster unsocial hours to meet customer demand and continue to share rosters with engineers six weeks ahead of appointments. 

The union and Centrica have had 300 hours of negotiation, with Centrica reaching agreement with other unions (Unison and Unite). 

Centrica say they are in need of "change" after huge revenue losses.

Centrica say they are in need of "change" after huge revenue losses. - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

A Centrica spokeswoman said: “Our business needs to change to survive and protect 20,000 jobs.

We know change is difficult but we have offered a fair deal that has been negotiated with unions – where base pay and pensions are protected. 83pc of our employees have already agreed to the new terms.’’

“For the GMB leadership to encourage people who are paid £40,000 to £50,000 to physically burn their contracts feels tone deaf and offensive to the millions of people who have lost jobs in the current economic downturn.”

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