South Yorkshire politicians support British Gas workers as contracts are burned in protest

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Leaders of South Yorkshire’s councils have shown their support for British Gas workers in the county who are protesting against ‘shameful’ fire and rehire tactics.

Today British Gas workers have burnt new contracts as they staged another strike as part of a long-running dispute with company Centrica PLC over pay and conditions.

Members of the GMB union are taking several days of industrial action in protest at changes to their pay and hours.

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This afternoon Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis and the Leaders of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Councils has issued a joint statement in support of the workers and their union in their industrial action.

British Gas workers burn contracts outside the headquarters of CentricaBritish Gas workers burn contracts outside the headquarters of Centrica
British Gas workers burn contracts outside the headquarters of Centrica

Writing in a joint statement, the South Yorkshire leaders said: “It is completely unacceptable that long-serving and dedicated British Gas workers are being threatened with shameful ‘fire and rehire’ tactics during contract re-negotiations with their employer Centrica PLC.

"They have been left with no option but to take further strike action.

“We wholeheartedly support the British Gas workers and the GMB Union in taking this action and send our solidarity to the striking workers and their families.

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“We call on Chris O’Shea and the Centrica leadership to drop these shameful tactics and resume negotiations with the GMB.”

Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis.Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis.
Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis.

GMB Union said engineers set fire to their new contracts at locations across the country as they went on strike for the seventh time this month, including outside the head office of British Gas owners Centrica. More strikes are planned on January 25, 29, 30 and 31 and February 1.

The union said engineers are being threatened with the sack if they do not sign the new contracts by March.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “GMB members at British Gas are burning the new contracts to show graphically their defiance of the imposition of hourly pay 15 per cent below the agreed rate – as well as other changes.

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“British Gas has provoked disruption to more than 100,000 households already in the backlog for services.

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, has backed the strikers.Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, has backed the strikers.
Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, has backed the strikers.

“That number will grow due to the new strike dates.

“The company needs to put customers and staff first by abandoning wishful thinking and taking ‘fire and rehire’ off the table.”

British Gas disputes the 100,000 figure, saying: “We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure we will still be there for customers who really need us, and we’ll prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies.”

The company, owned by Centrica, maintains it is trying to protect jobs, stressing that basic pay and pensions are not being affected by the changes.

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A spokesman said: “For the GMB leadership to encourage people who are paid £40,000 to £50,000 to physically burn their contracts feels tone deaf and offensive to the millions of people who have lost jobs in the current economic downturn.

“Our business needs to change to survive and protect 20,000 jobs. We know change is difficult but we have offered a fair deal that has been negotiated with unions – where base pay and pensions are protected. 83% of our employees have already agreed to the new terms.”