’30 years of loyal service counts for nothing’: Hundreds of British Gas engineers share their fury and grief as they lose jobs under energy giant’s ‘fire and rehire’ scheme
- Staff were given two weeks to sign new tougher contracts under ‘fire and rehire’
- Those who lost jobs took to Twitter to condemn tactic after timeframe passed
- Owner Centrica said its annual underlying earnings plunged by nearly a third
British Gas engineers have shared their fury as hundreds today lost their jobs after refusing to sign up to tougher employment terms under a ‘fire and rehire’ scheme.
The energy supplier handed dismissal notices to around 1,000 employees on April 1 following months of controversy over owner Centrica’s plans to up hours and cut higher pay rates on weekends and Bank Holidays.
Staff were given two weeks to decide whether or not to sign the updated contracts, which require full-time engineers to work an extra three hours per week.
It is understood around 500 engineers had still refused to agree to the new terms by the end of Tuesday, with between 300 and 400 people who didn’t sign by midday today expected to lose their jobs.
British Gas said it expected less than 500 employees to ‘choose to leave’, telling the BBC the changes in contract were necessary to protect the company’s future.
Dozens of those who lost their jobs today took to social media to condemn the actions of British Gas, with one former employee writing: ‘I won’t sign an inferior contract.’
British Gas engineers have shared their fury as hundreds today lost their jobs after refusing to sign up to tougher employment terms under a ‘fire and rehire’ scheme. Pictured: Stock image
Another engineer, who worked with the company for 20 years, said the only ‘thanks’ they received was a demand for the return of his ‘two-year-old honking work shoes’ and van.
Debbie Tinsley said: ‘So by this time tomorrow I, along with many others, will be fired by British Gas. What have we done wrong? Absolutely nothing.
‘We just didn’t agree to their new contract that would make us work longer hours for less pay. Thirty years of loyal service counts for nothing.’
Daniel Caie added: ‘It’s my last day at British Gas today. I’m getting dismissed for not signing their new contract.
‘So big thank you’s to: The Inverness & Elgin team for being sound and sharing vital experience throughout my 10 years.
‘The BG Twitter community for giving it a hell of a fight.’
Those who chose not to sign the divisive new contracts were applauded by Ed Miliband, who said he was ‘proud to support the British Gas workers who are taking a stand against unacceptable ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.’
British Gas workers who are members of the GMB union go on strike in Windsor in January
Dozens of those who lost their jobs today took to social media to condemn the actions of British Gas, with one former employee writing: ‘I won’t sign an inferior contract’
Taking to Twitter, he added: ‘Boris Johnson said that ‘fire and rehire’ was unacceptable, but he’s done nothing about it. The government needs to act now.’
Nadia Whittome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East, said: ‘Today British Gas fires hundreds of its workers.
‘Why? They wouldn’t sign new contracts that would make their lives worse.
‘Companies shouldn’t be able to do this. Fire and rehire should be illegal.
‘Solidarity to those affected. Time to change the law.’
The GMB Union today insisted British Gas should be ‘ashamed of themselves’ for their use of the controversial scheme.
Andy Prendergast, GMB acting national secretary, told the Guardian many of its 8,000 engineers had agreed to the terms ‘under duress. ‘
Those who chose not to sign the divisive new contracts were applauded by Ed Miliband, who said he was ‘proud to support the British Gas workers who are taking a stand against unacceptable ‘fire and rehire’ tactics’
A spokesman for Centrica told MailOnline: ‘There is a job for everyone at the end of this process. We are changing the way we work to give our customers the service they want and protect the future of our company and 20,000 UK jobs.
‘Today marks the end of the period for our employees to sign new contracts. These are highly competitive, and our changes are reasonable. Around 98% of the entire company has accepted and we hope the remaining, also sign and choose to stay.
‘We have not cut base pay or changed our generous final salary pensions. Our gas service engineers remain some of the best paid in the sector, earning £40,000 a year minimum.
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.
‘The changes will also unlock our ability to grow jobs and hire 1000 green apprentices over the next two years.’
It comes after Centrica revealed its annual underlying earnings had plunged by nearly a third as it shed more customers and was hit by the pandemic and warmer weather.
The Windsor-based group, which reported a 31 per cent drop in underlying operating profits to £447million for 2020, lost nearly 165,000 customers last year.
Britain’s largest energy supplier also reported a £362million loss from continuing operations for last year, but this was less than the £783million loss posted for 2019.
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