British Gas

British Gas is the UK’s largest energy company serving more than 20 million customers in England, Wales and Scotland. The company has given staff until midday on last Wednesday to accept new working conditions. The contracts included increased working hours and pay cuts. 500 people refused to sign the proposed contracts and lost their jobs.

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, reported that the failure to sign the contracts affected fewer than 500 engineers, or around 2 per cent of the workforce.

It said that the changes being made were necessary to protect the company and its 20,000 employees.

Andy Prendergast, leader of the GMB trade union, said these were the biggest mass redundancies he could remember.

British Gas has lost more than 3 million customers in the last ten years. Employment has been cut by 15,000 jobs in that time. The company’s profits have halved.

The union entered into an industrial dispute with the employer over six months ago. In early March, the engineers announced strike action.

The GMB union estimates that this has led to 250,000 homes not being repaired and 350,000 scheduled annual service visits being cancelled.

Centrica hopes the company’s walkouts end the conflict. It asserts that new contracts are “highly competitive” because the company’s gas services engineers are “among the best paid in the sector, earning a minimum of £40,000 a year”.

By Annie Cook (photo: