Centrica faces strikes early in the new year after one of the unions that represents more than 9,000 of its 20,000-strong UK workforce voted in favour of industrial action over the company asking all employees to sign new contracts.
The GMB union said late on Thursday that 89 per cent of the more than 5,400 votes cast in a ballot on the new contractual conditions had voted in favour of strike action.
Centrica, the owner of British Gas, said in June that it intended to tackle its many types of employment contract because it had more than 80 separate agreements.
The move was announced as part of a restructuring by new chief executive Chris O’Shea. This involved 5,000 job losses, particularly from management roles, on top of the 12,500 roles that have already been cut since 2015.
Other unions have accepted the new contracts but the GMB has resisted what it branded Centrica’s “fire and rehire” tactics and says gas repair and service staff face cuts to pay and conditions of up to 10 per cent.
It claimed that the energy supplier had responded to Thursday’s vote by setting a new deadline two days before Christmas for staff to accept the proposed cuts or lose pay and protections “ahead of being sacked”.
Justin Bowden, the GMB’s national secretary, said this had “now made strike action unavoidable”.
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The union will now consider the ballot result and “the nature” and dates of industrial action in January, Mr Bowden said. He added: “Centrica and British Gas CEO Chris O’Shea is entirely to blame for this disruption in the depths of winter.”
Centrica claimed that the union had a “very weak mandate” for strike action as only 5,427 votes were cast in the ballot out of a total of 9,195 that were eligible. The company added: “It is clear the GMB leadership does not have popular support across their membership for this course of action.”
The GMB represents a large proportion of Centrica’s 8,000 engineers but also includes office-based staff among its members.
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