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STRIKING British Gas engineers burned new company contracts today to demonstrate that they will not be bullied into accepting a massive pay cut and inferior conditions.
As more than 7,000 engineers downed tools for their seventh day of strike action, the GMB union called on the “millionaires’ club” on the company’s board to rein in chief executive Chris O’Shea’s fire-and-rehire strategy.
The union pointed out that four members of the board of parent company Centrica made £37 million between them for roles outside the company in the last five years.
GMB national secretary Justin Bowden called on the four — chairman Scott Wheway, Heidi Mottram, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Hester — to curb Mr O’Shea’s “obsession” with sacking and rehiring the entire workforce, warning that it would “cost the company and the board dearly.”
Mr Bowden said: “The board members of Centrica have been remiss: they should have asked Mr O’Shea how his plans would impact on British Gas customers when the engineers inevitably rejected hourly rates 15 per cent below agreed pay rates and other imposed changes.
“It was wishful thinking in the extreme to believe that members of any union would ever acquiesce to cuts of this magnitude in a profitable company.
“The Centrica board should reverse the view they have allowed to prevail that the company doesn’t care about customers, by reining in the hopelessly out of touch and naive Mr O’Shea.
“The men and women in the Centrica millionaires’ club are rich beyond the dreams of any British Gas engineer and they will never succeed in grinding loyal, hard-working staff into submission just to earn a few more quid at the expense of their customers.“
Mr Bowden added that around 100,000 British customers were already waiting for delayed service calls and that the backlog would grow with each day of strike action.
Further strike action is planned for January 25, and for the four days between January 29 and February 1.
Centrica maintains it is trying to protect jobs and stressed that basic pay and pensions are not being affected by the changes.
A spokesperson 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 that change is difficult but we have offered a fair deal that has been negotiated with unions.”
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