Protesting British Gas workers burn contracts as row over pay deal intensifies

FURIOUS British Gas workers staged a series of protests across Portsmouth in a fresh strike over pay and conditions

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 5:10 pm

Engineers went on strike on Friday during a flurry of demonstrations across landmarks in the city, including outside opposite the Spinnaker Tower.

GMB, the union organising the strikes national, said workers had already set fire to their new contracts – and warned fresh industrial action was planned in protest of changes to their pay and hours.

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British Gas workers were at various locations around Portsmouth on Friday, January 22 on strike through the GMB Union. Pictured is: Sonny Williams. Picture: Sarah Standing (220121-1464)

According to GMB, workers have been told that they could be fired from their roles at British Gas if they do not sign their new contracts by March.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: ‘GMB members at British Gas are burning the new contracts to show graphically their defiance of the imposition of hourly pay 15 per cent below the agreed rate – as well as other changes.

‘British Gas has provoked disruption to more than 100,000 households already in the backlog for services.

‘That number will grow due to the new strike dates.

British Gas workers were at various locations around Portsmouth on Friday, January 22 on strike through the GMB Union. Pictured is: (l-r) British Gas workers Sonny Williams, Ian Byng, Mark Oxley, Tom Gunn, Jack Fryer, Mark Carpenter and Matt Sutton. Picture: Sarah Standing (220121-1445)

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

One worker, who took part in the protests across Portsmouth, told The News they felt the changes were putting lives at risk as part during the pandemic.

‘This has been done to a workforce that have worked over and above during the crisis, continuing to visit customers with heating and hot water faults again putting ourselves and our families at risk but doing so willingly because it’s what you the customer deserves,’ they added.

‘I personally have been into known Covid-19 positive houses to repair their heating, putting myself and my family at risk.’

British Gas insisted it was trying to protect jobs, stressing that basic pay and pensions are not being affected by the changes.

A spokesman said: ‘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.

‘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. 83 per cent of our employees have already agreed to the new terms.'

The company also disputed the 100,000 ‘backlog’ figure raised by GMB, insisting ‘strong contingency plans’ were in place and that vulnerable households and emergencies would be ‘prioritised’.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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