Strikes as part of the ongoing dispute between the GMB Union and Centrica have resumed after talks with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) failed to bear fruit.
Last weekend a four-day strike was suspended to allow talks between GMB and British Gas to take place at ACAS. GMB says the talks require the company to drop its so-called ‘fire and rehire’ plan if a deal is to be possible.
Centrica and GMB are understood to be at a “critical stage” in the negotiations through ACAS.
The 19th day of industrial action kicks off a further weekend of strikes today (19 February) which will see engineers down tools until Tuesday (23 February).
Around 7,000 British Gas engineers have taken part in industrial action against Centrica’s contract change proposals.
The field staff bargaining group rejected the proposals and have already taken part in 18 days of strikes. A further four-day strike, beginning on 26 February and ending at 23.59 on 1 March, is also scheduled to take place.
Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “Strike days 19 to 22 will go ahead at British Gas after talks at ACAS faltered because the company refused to end the fire and rehire notice.
“GMB’s executive has determined action could continue to mid-April in this deadlocked dispute.
“GMB entered into these ACAS brokered talks in good faith, but a deal is only possible if the company takes its fire and rehire plan off the table.
“After 18 days of strikes, more than 210,000 homes are in a backlog for repairs and 250, 000 planned annual service visits have been axed.”
A Centrica spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
Speaking during a government select committee hearing earlier this month Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea said there needed to be more legal clarity over fire and rehire proposals.
He added that he “regretted” the company’s interpretation of the law which is that S.188 notices have to be issued as soon as the employer believes there is no possibility of a negotiated settlement.
“I don’t think the way the law is drafted just now helps with negotiations. I understand why Mr Bowden and the GMB feel that that contaminates negotiates. I would feel similar to that. But I think what we can’t have is companies not being able to make changes to terms and conditions at all, but we can and I hope we do change where in the process that has to be notified because I don’t think the law as it’s currently drafted helps us in these conversations”, he said.