The GMB union has condemned the “mass sackings” of engineers on Wednesday amid a long-running dispute with Centrica over pay and conditions.
The BBC reported almost 500 British Gas engineers lost their jobs after refusing to sign new contracts which the union claims will cut pay by 15%.
British Gas owner Centrica told the broadcaster around 2% of its staff had chosen not to sign the new contracts, though it reportedly refused to give precise numbers as they could still change.
GMB said strike action will continue, with Wednesday marking the 43rd day of industrial action this year.
It added that the strikes have led to a huge backlog of services and emergency repairs.
Today hundreds of British Gas key workers are being sacked - despite years of service for a highly profitable company.— GMB Union (@GMB_union) April 14, 2021
No redundancy pay.
Why? Because they refused to sign a worse contract.
British Gas should be ashamed of themselves.
GMB national officer Justin Bowden condemned the lost jobs as a “low point” in the dispute.
He said: “That British Gas doesn’t give a toss for either customers or staff is shown by the mass sackings of engineers it needs so badly for customer services that it has suspended the sale of boiler insurance cover.
“Whilst there is sadly nothing to stop a company bullying its own staff to sign terms they don’t accept, and sacking those who won’t submit to bullying, GMB members will not accept the outcome of this nine-month campaign of British Gas bullying.
“With hundreds of thousands waiting in the backlog for service, customers have been treated as collateral and so, it seems, too will staff.”
Centrica earlier denied the union’s claims, with a spokesman saying: “We are modernising the way we work to give our customers the service they want and protect the future of our company and our 20,000 colleagues.
“The vast majority of our employees have agreed to the new terms, which are fair and very competitive. We’re not changing base salaries or pensions. Sadly, the GMB continue to say we have cut pay by 15% and this is simply not true.
“Our gas service engineers remain some of the best-paid in the sector, on £40,000 a year minimum.
“Some of our engineers who don’t currently work a 40-hour week like their other colleagues will be working an additional three hours, and we’re increasing their base pay for the next two years to reflect this.
“After this point we’re still paying for those hours but through a productivity bonus, which means earnings are uncapped.
“It’s now time for all parties to move forward and continue the turnaround of Centrica for our customers’ and our colleagues’ benefit.”
A company spokesman added in a statement to the Guardian: “While change is difficult, reversing our decline – which has seen us lose over three million customers, cut over 15,000 jobs and seen profits halved over the last 10 years – is necessary.”