THE leader of South Yorkshire’s four councils and the regional mayor have all come out in support of gas workers on strike over controversial fire-and-rehire plans.
British Gas staff are taking industrial action over changes to their working conditions.
Workers from Rotherham held a picket outside Rotherham Town Hall recently against the plans, which the energy giant says are necessary to modernise the company.
City region mayor Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Council leader Cllr Stephen Houghton, Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones, Rotherham Council leader Chris Read and his Sheffield counterpart Cllr Bob Johnson issued a joint statement in support of British Gas workers and the GMB union in their industrial action against British Gas parent company Centrica PLC.
The South Yorkshire leaders said: “It is completely unacceptable that long-serving and dedicated British Gas workers are being threatened with shameful ‘fire and rehire’ tactics during contract re-negotiations with their employer Centrica PLC.
“They have been left with no option but to take further strike action.
“We wholeheartedly support the British Gas workers and the GMB Union in taking this action and send our solidarity to the striking workers and their families.
“We call on chief executive Chris O’Shea and the Centrica leadership to drop these shameful tactics and resume negotiations with the GMB.”
Brinsworth-based gas man Mike Reynolds said he and his comrades felt British Gas was trying to negotiate with staff “at gunpoint.”.
He said the proposed deal for workers included being forced to work three more hours a week for no pay, the standard working day being extended and a cut of a third in overtime pay.
Mike called the new terms “massively detrimental”.
He added: “The strike is nothing to do with a pay rise or an improvement to our terms and conditions, we purely want to keep what we already have, we've never once asked for more.”
Mike said the changes were set to affect all British Gas’s 20,000 staff but it was the engineers, electricians and the other workers who go into people’s homes that would bear the brunt of them.
A bill is going before Parliament tomorrow (29) and has the backing of several high-profile MPs.
More strike days are planned, and the gas workers have set up a crowdfunding page to call for support at
A Centrica spokesperson said: “We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure we will still be there for customers who really need us, and we’ll prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies.
“We’re not changing base pay or pensions and we will reward increased productivity through additional bonuses. 83 per cent of our employees have already accepted the new terms - including the majority of our engineers.
“Our changes are ultimately to protect and create jobs for the future.’’
Centrica denied engineers would not be paid for extra hours, insisting those hitting targets would receive a 7.5per cent boost.
They said they had negotiated for 300 hours and reached agreement with Unison and Unite, adding that only a small majority of GMB members had voted to strike.