Dodgy legal advice led to strikes, British Gas CEO tells Parliament
Dodgy legal advice in July to blame for ongoing strikes and breakdown in industrial relations and trust in profitable British Gas says CEO O’Shea in Parliament
Mr O’Shea told Parliament that he wants to rebuild trust with GMB members and a simple way to do this to correct the mistake and take ' fire and rehire' off the table says GMB London
A hearing of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee on Tuesday 2nd February was told by British Gas CEO Mr O’Shea that iffy legal advice in July 2020 on ' fire and rehire', which he questioned at the time, is to blame for the current ongoing strikes and breakdown in industrial relations and trust with gas engineers.
Mr O’Shea told the Committee that "trust is not where it should be" in what he said is a company "with underlying profitability" and that he is committed to working with GMB to rebuild this trust.
The BEIS Select Committee hearing follows yesterday’s announcement that engineers and other staff in London and East of England, in the Field staff bargaining group in British Gas, will follow twelve days of national strike with a further four days on Friday 5th, Saturday 6th, Sunday 7th and Monday 8th February as the next stage in the 'fire and rehire' pay and conditions dispute.
A meeting of the GMB Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Tuesday, 2nd February, considered the next steps in the dispute. Elected CEC members from London and East of England were at the meeting:
The following issues are relevant:
- A profitable British Gas persists with the claim of a crisis to threaten and bully staff with 'fire and rehire' even though Mr O’Shea has admitted it is based on dodgy legal advice. Three months after he arrived industrial relationships were thrown into turmoil and strikes.
- Wishful thinking in the extreme persists that union members will ever acquiesce in pay 15% below agreed rates and other adverse changes.
- British Gas appears to have little concern for its customers. After 12 days of strikes, more than 170,000 homes are in a backlog for repairs and 200,000 planned annual service visits were axed. The company is misleading the media that it is catching up after 24 hours.
- GMB members in the Field Engineers bargaining group are solid after twelve days strike against the new contract. The only votes that count in this group are those of the Field Engineers themselves. The 83% figure mainly covers other bargaining groups so it has no relevance to this dispute.
Gary Pearce, GMB London Region Senior Officer for Energy, said
“Mr O’Shea's recognition that dodgy legal advice to him led to the total breakdown in industrial relations and trust between the engineers and what he says is a profitable company. It should now signal a change of course.
“Mr O’Shea told Parliament that he wants to rebuild trust with GMB members. The simple way to do this and correct this mistake is to take ' fire and rehire' off the table.
“He should do this as further strikes will add to over 170,000 homes already in repair backlog and 200,000 service visits axed. British Gas’s claim that it is catching up after 24 hours is bogus.
“Staff in the Field Engineers bargaining group will not accept the new contract. 12 days of solid strike action shows this. British Gas is kidding itself using a misleading figure of 83% that is mostly staff in other bargaining groups. The only votes that count are the Field staff so the 83% figure is not relevant.
“Unless there is a recognition that the mistaken legal advice requires the company to go back to square one the CEC have little alternative but to prepare for a protracted dispute.
“GMB in this industry started with town gas, moved on to natural gas and later on to digital technology. Change won't stop there.
“Members are not afraid to embrace a new future, with investment in the latest in diagnostic technologies, to pave the way for the "engineers of the future" programme. But members will not be bullied into the new contract."
Contact: Gary Pearce, GMB London Region Senior Officer for Energy 078 5003 6952
Notes to editors
GMB London Region press release 1st February 2021
GMB London Region press release 28th January 2021
GMB London Region press release 25th January 2021
GMB London Region press release 22nd January 2021
GMB London Region press release 6th January 2021
GMB London Region press release 5th January 2021
GMB London Region press release 23rd December 2020