GMB British Gas Workers Decisively Reject ‘Re-offer’

Following voting down British Gas’ ‘re-offer’ in a ballot, big numbers turned out to picket lines on Friday as workers started days 27-30 of the strike over the weekend. The ‘re-offer” was rejected by 69% overall on a 82% turnout across 5 business units and the crucial domestic gas engineers emphatically rejecting the offer by 79% voting no on a 88% turnout.

Leeds Socialist Party members

The ‘re-offer’ was essentially the same proposals the company had already put forward under the threat of ‘fire and rehire’, with an added one off payment of around ¬£2,500 in January 2022. Whilst many pickets on the Monday before the ballot started had expressed that this wasn’t anything substantially different from before, and were voting no, there were worries amongst many that as to whether everyone was of that mindset.

However, the crushing defeat of the ‘re-offer’ has given what one picket in Leeds called “a huge boost” to the strikers, with around 60 pickets out in Leeds, the biggest day so far, whilst another protest in Yorkshire also took place in Rotherham. Another picket summed up the mood, saying “We’ve shown that we’re standing firm, the ball is now in the company’s court to make us a serious offer to resolve this dispute”.

As well as 4 copies of the Socialist being bought by strikers, their GMB branch have also bought 50 copies of a pamphlet produced by Leeds Socialist Party covering local historic workers struggles including the 1890 gas strike, key to the formation of the predecessor of the GMB in the city. Iain Dalton, one of the authors of the pamphlet, spoke to the strikers drawing the parallels between the disputes.

Like today’s dispute, the then council owned gas workers attempted to impose new working conditions on its workforce with the threat of the sack, in order to take back concessions made by the council in response to the formation of the union the previous year. The current site of the British Gas call centre workers have been picketing and rallying outside, is the same site that housed the Meadow Lane gas works then, where around 10-15,000 workers and their supporters beseiged, and succesfully encouraged the overwhelming majority of strikebreakers brought in from outside the city under false pretences by the council, to take trains back home paid for by the union.

Alongside the 30,000 that assembled to stop strikebreakers at the New Wortley gas works, working class solidarity was key to workers defeating the council in 1890. With seemingly increasing numbers of company’s such as Tesco’s, Go North West and others resorting to fire and rehire to attacks workers pay, terms and conditions, then it is vital for such working class solidarity to be mobilised through the trade unions today, as ever company that gets away with such an attack will embolden others.

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