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British Gas engineers in the GMB union held a picket line on Aylestone Road, Leicester on 11 January and received tremendous support from passers-by, both on foot, and in cars hooting their horns.
They have been out on strike for five days so far against massive attacks on their pay and terms and conditions. These include an increase in working hours for no extra pay. This is in addition to driving time to customers' homes at the start of the day, and back at the end, being excluded from working hours, plus attacks on holidays and rota systems, and more.
Leicester Socialist Party members have been on the picket line on Aylestone Road showing solidarity.
Paul Carvell, the local shop steward and a regional GMB rep, who is a technical engineer and has worked for the company for 38 years, spoke to the Socialist:
"We are out on strike because our terms and conditions are under threat.
"To force this through they've used the tactic of fire and rehire. The union has successfully negotiated with the management for years, but, now a new CEO (Chris O'Shea) has decided the only way forward is to use bully-boy tactics. These terms, and conditions will make a massive difference to my work-life balance.
"Over 95% of the engineers are on strike, we are a heavily unionised industry. We don't want to take this action; this is the time of year when our customers need us most to keep them warm. But this is the last chance to stop these disgusting attacks.
"The next step is five more days of, strike spread across three weeks.
"We want a settlement, but fire and rehire is an absolute disgrace and should be illegal."
The holding company for British Gas, Centrica, made £901 million in profits last year. The Socialist Party campaigns for renationalisation of the industry, with democratic workers' control, so that this kind of profiteering management can be removed.
GMB regional organiser based in Leicester, Colin Wyatt, said "this action is a result of bullying tactics. We've said 'No way O'Shea' and enough is enough!"
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Article dated 13 January 2021
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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