More than 1,000 British Gas workers across the West Midlands have launched strike action today over a change in their pay and conditions.
The action by members of the GMB union is set to take place on seven separate days between now and February 1.
The trade union claimed the company had fired staff and then rehired them on worse terms and conditions but British Gas’ parent company Centrica hit back, saying it needed to change after losing “too many jobs and too many customers over recent years”.
It added that GMB, along with other trade unions representatives, had actually helped to shape these new T&Cs for staff and other unions had reached a deal with the company after 300 hours of negotiations.
During the strike action, GMB members have opted to help local charities and good causes and will also clear waste land and pick litter up across the West Midlands.
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Those on strike include British Gas engineers, with GMB saying the industrial action had already caused problems for customers with an estimated 100,000 homes waiting for service across the country.
Paul Vowles, one of the striking engineers, said: “British Gas is trying to grind us down but if we can’t support our customers then we’ll support their communities while we’re on strike.
“We care about the people we serve and are honoured to be able to help deliver food parcels, clear waste land and help struggling new mothers.
“Our loyal engineers are showing their best side this week, standing together against fire-and-rehire bullying and continuing to help the people who need us most, just like we do every day.”
In its 2019 accounts, Centrica posted a pre-tax loss of £849 million following a series of adjustments and one-off payments.
It warned that it had lost two million energy customers, one million services customers and more than half of its earnings over the past decade.
In a statement, Centrica said: “We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure we will still be there for customers who really need us and we’ll prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies.
“We’re operating in an incredibly competitive market and British Gas has lost too many jobs and too many customers over recent years. We can’t continue like this.
“We need to take action to modernise and refocus the company in line with what our customers need now, not what they needed 20 years ago.
“Our pay for engineers will remain the highest in the sector but we need to get productivity back to where it used to be and, for some, we need to increase the working week from 37 to 40 hours.”
The statement added that Centrica was not changing base pay or pensions and would reward increased productivity through additional bonuses.
The company said 83 per cent of its employees, including the majority of its engineers, had already accepted the new terms.
The strike action is set to take place on January 20, 22, 25, 29, 30, 31 and February 1.