British Gas Workers Fight Fire and Re-Hire Plans

British Gas workers, primarily engineers, are currently locked in battle with boss Chris O’Shea over his attempts to impose attacks on terms and conditions through firing and re-hiring the workforce.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

The workers, organised in the GMB union, have been taking strike action during January, with Friday 29th being the 9th day of strikes, ahead of the deadline of 31st March for workers to sign the new contracts.

In Leeds, around 50 workers joined a socially distanced march round the British Gas call centre offices in Holbeck near the city centre. Workers marched in groups of no more than 6, joined by a delegation from Leeds TUC including Socialist Party members.

Leeds TUC joins gas workers protest – photo Leeds TUC

Workers on the protest were mostly from Leeds, with a few from other places in West Yorkshire such as Pontefract, Huddersfield and Brighouse.

All of whom were determined to see this attack on their conditions defeated, especially when British Gas’ parent company Centrica reported an operating profit of £901m in 2019.

As one worker explained to us, as well as trying to increase the working week from 37 hours to 40 hours for service and repair workers, the company are also cutting their holidays, removing premium payments over Christmas and Bank Holidays. Meanwhile O’Shea himself will take home an annual package worth almost £800,000 this year, twenty times the basic earnings of an engineer.

The recent victory for workers at BA Cargo over fire and rehire plans was mentioned by a number of workers and has certainly given a boost to the confidence of workers that this amish can be defeated.

Donations to the strike funds are welcome and the union has produced an online petition at

Pickets outside former British Gas training centre in Armley – photo Iain Dalton

Update: Monday 1st February

Picketing outside the former British training centre in Armley makes for a sharp contrast between the future that GMB members on strike are fighting for and the short-term penny pinching the company has been engaging in.

Almost all the pickets had trained at this site and in the last round of pay negotiations the company promised 450 apprentices would be trained. Yet Armley and sime other training sites have been closed over the last few years, with only 3 remaining now.

British Gas picket line in Armley – photo Iain Dalton

Rather than breaking apart the skilled trainers based here, pickets told me they wished the company had diversified what training they provided at the site. Some people had been trained on installing heating via solar panels but that had been discontinued. The installation of ground source heating and other new green technologies would have been another option.

Many of the pickets are looking forward to Centrica boss O’Shea being grilled by a parliamentary select committee this week and answer for the cutbacks he is making in a still profitable company.

But under capitalism bosses like O’Shea priority is to boost the profits of their shareholders rather than looking after the interests of their workforce. That’s why the Socialist Party argues for public ownership of the major energy companies under democratic workers control and management so that the working class can decide the priorities of companies in the interests of the majority of society rather than a handful at the top.

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