Keir Starmer has expressed solidarity with British Gas workers who have today started a national five-day strike over “attempts to bully workers into accepting cuts to their pay and terms and conditions”.
Members of Labour-affiliated GMB trade union at British Gas will go on strike and join various pickets planned across the country in line with Covid guidance after 89% voted for industrial action.
The strike ballot of members in December 2020 took place in response to parent company Centrica saying it would impose ‘fire and rehire’ cuts to workers’ pay and terms and conditions on pain of dismissal.
The Labour leader, who earlier this year adopted the policy of outlawing ‘fire and rehire’ practices, today tweeted: “Solidarity with British Gas workers – striking against attempts to fire and rehire them on worse terms.
“They’re defending themselves and taking a stand against a practice that should be illegal. The company must get back to the table and resolve this through negotiation.”
GMB is calling on members of the public to ask why Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea is planning the pay cut “in the depths of winter” and following reported operating profits of £901m in 2019.
The union has highlighted that Centrica declared an adjusted operating profit of £229m for its domestic heating business in the UK in the six months to June 30th last year – up 27% on the previous year.
GMB national secretary Justin Bowden said an attempt to “bully workers” had “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”.
Commenting on the news of a GMB member strike, a Centrica spokesperson said: “We’ve done everything we can with the GMB to avoid industrial action.” They claimed that GMB was “intent on causing disruption”.
Starmer took a strong stand in September against ‘fire and rehire’ practices, whereby workers are given notice of redundancy and later rehired on worse pay and conditions, describing them as “against British values”.
He told TUC Congress 2020: “’Fire and re-hire’ tactics are wrong. They’re against British values. They should also be illegal. These tactics punish good employers, hit working people hard and harm our economy.
The Labour leader added: “I’m calling on the government to act now. Introduce legislation to end fire and re-hire, and give working people the security they need. If you do that, you will have our full support.”