Cllr Alan Hall joined British Gas workers, local trade unionists and campaigners outside the historic gas workers’ Livesey Hall in Bell Green, Lower Sydenham. He said: “Let’s turn up the heat on British Gas.” The Livesey Memorial Hall was built in the north-west corner of the South Suburban Gas Company’s principal site at Bell Green, which in 1911 employed 380 men. Much of the building work was carried out by the Gas Company workers. It is a Grade II Listed Historic landmark building. The separately Grade II Listed War Memorial commemorates those who died in the World Wars from the gas works.
This marked the start of a fresh four day strike on Friday 29 until Monday 1 February over ‘fire and rehire’ imposed pay cuts 15% below agreed rates and other adverse changes to their terms and conditions of work.
Speaking to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng, Labour MP Stephen Doughty said he met with Centrica CEO Chris O’Shea in September, who told him the company has not issued s188 notices to staff.
Earlier that day, The Morning Star reported that Chris O’Shea, the boss of British Gas told Stephen Doughty MP that the company had not issued redundancy notices when they had.
In fact, Centrica had issued the s188 notices – essentially a legal letter that gives advance notice that an employer intends to dismiss staff – to its entire UK workforce in July, before negotiations had even started.
Unison represent some staff at Centrica, they say: “As a business Centrica has wasted billions of pounds over the past decade and continued during that time to make massive payments to investors. Its decline is not sudden and yet the business has under the smoke screen of an international pandemic decided opportunistically to attack its own loyal workforce and the trade unions that will defend the workforce. This is disgraceful behaviour. We have asked the business to rescind the S188 notice pending negotiations but they have rejected this request.”
GMB national secretary Justin Bowden said: “Either Chris O’Shea was in denial about the dysfunctional way he’s running the business, or he deliberately lied to a Member of Parliament representing their constituents. ”
“The eight days of strikes so far this month, provoked by a profitable British Gas, have led to a repair backlog of more than 150,000 homes, with 200,000 routine annual boiler service visits cancelled so far this month.”
Cllr Alan Hall has written to Centrica Board members demanding that they use their positions to “think again” and “reign in” the Chief Executive Officer.
Full Text below.
Dear Centrica Board Member,
I am writing to you today because I’m incredibly concerned about what I’m seeing in the newspapers and social media about how British Gas is treating its workforce.
British Gas is an institution. It’s a respected company and household name with millions of customers. It is incredibly disappointing to see that you intend to fire and rehire your employees on worse terms and conditions, and this in the middle of a global pandemic.
As Board members you are well rewarded, yet you are asking loyal and hardworking British Gas employees to add another 5.5-8 hours of unpaid work and travel to their working weeks. Many of your employees have children and families and caring responsibilities.
For a company that used to be seen as a great place to work, it’s understandable to see the anger from staff who want to protect their precious family time. For the sake of your own reputation, it’s time you reined in your out-of-control CEO Chris O’Shea.
I see that GMB – the union for British Gas workers – has been willing to negotiate and come to talks with you, but that you won’t take the threat of fire and rehire off the table – that hardly strikes me as an employer negotiating in good faith.
British Gas needs to think again. This is not how a reputable company should treat its workforce. It’s disgraceful.
As a Board member you have the ability to change things. Please use your position to do the right thing for hardworking British Gas employees.
Cllr Alan Hall
Report in the Newsshopper is here
Report in South London Press is here