On the Picket Line

Gas workers in UK strike against boss moves to cut pay

By Pete Clifford
February 15, 2021

STOCKPORT, England — Striking gas workers in the U.K. have held 11 strike days beginning Jan. 7 through Feb. 1, standing up to bullying tactics by Centrica bosses seeking to impose pay cuts. The 7,500 workers, members of the GMB union who install and maintain gas cookers, radiators, meters and other equipment, have set up picket lines around the country.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, is seeking to impose a pay freeze, an extra three hours work a week with no extra pay, and changes to working conditions. Workers who refuse to sign on by March 31 will be fired, then rehired under the bosses’ conditions. They say Centrica needs these concessions to “modernize” the company, which they claim shows how it has been able to be “agile and responsive” in reacting to the coronavirus crisis.

“We face up to 20% pay cut” one picket outside the company headquarters here in Greater Manchester told the Militant, declining under union advice to give his name for fear of victimization.

“They are trying to undermine the union by forcing us to contract with them individually,” added another picket.

Still the mood on the picket line was determined. “If we can’t stop this, other companies will do it next,” a picket named Steve said. Before Centrica began pushing its “fire and rehire” scheme, British Airways and other airline companies used the same tactic to impose job and pay cuts.

Five hundred bus workers in Manchester are voting on whether to strike in the face of similar threats from bosses at Go North West. The company said it wanted drivers to work longer hours, face a 10% pay cut and lose sick-pay entitlements. The bosses rejected union officials’ counteroffer of a pay freeze.