BRITISH Gas engineers around the country have launched strike action in opposition to what they say are planned cuts in pay and conditions.

The action began on Thursday January 7 and is set to continue until Monday January 11, with pickets planned across Lancashire, the North West and around the UK and involves gas engineers, installers and electricians.

This has come about after a ballot in December in which 89 per cent of the GMB union's 9,000 British Gas members voted to strike in protest at chief executive Chris O'Shea and parent company Centrica's plan to 'fire and re-hire' members of the current workforce.

GMB North West and Ireland regional secretary Paul McCarthy said: "Big thanks to British Gas and O'Shea for bringing the company to it knees and threatening our members and their families with fire and re-hire on worst terms and conditions during a pandemic.

"Explain that to your service customers during winter."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Strike will be going on for a five day period 

Meanwhile the union's national leadership has said such action was 'inevitable.'

The strike will involve around 4,500 service and repair gas engineers, 600 central heating installers, 540 electrical engineers, 170 specialist business gas engineers and 1,700 smart metering engineers.

The only exceptions to the industrial action will be dealing with emergencies and problems for households with vulnerable people.

GMB national secretary Justin Bowden said: “British Gas boss Chris O’Shea’s attempts to bully workers into accepting cuts to their pay and terms and conditions has provoked this inevitable outcome, massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter and a stain on the reputation of an historic company and brand.

“GMB is calling on the public to ask why British Gas CEO Mr O’Shea is provoking an engineers’ strike with fire and re-hire pay cuts, in the depths of winter.

"This is against the backdrop of the company reporting operating profits of £901m in the latest available annual accounts.”

The union says that the hire and fire plans would see workers forced to sign new and less favourable employment contracts or face dismissal.

Officials admit that this action has the potential to cause huge disruption, especially during a winter cold snap, but say that they had been provoked by the company's behaviour.

They have been especially angered by the fact that Centrica is pursuing these policies despite having declared profits of £229 million for its domestic heating business in the UK, a 27 per cent increase on profits made over the same period last year.

However, the company has said that it has done everything possible to avoid industrial action and that it has been disappointed by GMB's reaction.

A spokesperson said: "While we've made great progress with our other unions, sadly the GMB leadership seems intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest weekend of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown."