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10 March 2021

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British Gas strikers reject deal and carry on fighting

British Gas strike Leicester February 2021, photo Steve Score

British Gas strike Leicester February 2021, photo Steve Score   (Click to enlarge)

Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party

"We've told O'Shea to stick it!" This was the message to the British Gas CEO and the feeling on the British Gas engineers' picket line in Leicester on 5 March. It was the day after GMB union members had rejected management's latest offer.

Some of the pickets described how the results had come in live from the different business groups as if it were a football match: "One-nil, two-nil, two-one..." In the end all bar one of the five groups voted to reject. The anger of the strikers has only increased as a result of various bullying attempts by management.

The engineers on the Aylestone Road picket line were from the service and repair group, the biggest, that voted 79% to reject on an 88% turnout. It has been the membership that has led that determination to fight, not the GMB leadership, who made no recommendation on the deal.

Paul Carvell, GMB steward, said: "It was a four-to-one vote against accepting the offer, so we are out on strike again today. We are now into day 26 of strike action, yet more people are coming down to the picket line. The depth of feeling is getting stronger against the attack on our terms of conditions and the use of 'fire and rehire'. O'Shea says the consultation meetings, legally required in the fire and rehire process, are starting. The threat of mass sackings is imminently real.

"We want them to come back to the table with a decent offer. But we have already announced sixteen days of strikes in March, and there is talk of escalating it further towards the end of March. It is the membership itself that has spoken really strongly against the company and their proposals.

"The extra three hours working per week with no extra pay, and the impact it will have on work-life balance, is a huge stumbling block to accepting any deal. Because we are on annualised hours it is likely that we will be working far more hours in the summer."

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