Thursday 7 January 2021 8:21 am

British Gas engineers start five-day strike in row over pay

British Gas customers have been warned of “massive disruption” as engineers this morning began a five-day strike amid a row over pay.

Thousands of staff members could walk out in protest at new contracts, which the GMB union says amount to so-called fire and rehire tactics to cut pay on pain of dismissal.

GMB national secretary Justin Bowden accused British Gas parent company Centrica of provoking the strike, adding that its actions were a “stain on the reputation of an historic company and brand”.

Centrica said it had contingency plans in place during the strike and would prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies.

The action follows a GMB ballot of 9,000 members, which saw 89 per cent of its British Gas membership vote in favour of a walkout.

The union said 4,500 service and repair gas engineers could walk out, as well as 600 central heating installers, 540 electrical engineers, 170 specialist business gas engineers and 1,700 smart metering engineers.

In June Centrica announced a restructuring plan that will lead to 5,000 job cuts in a bid to turn around fortunes at British Gas, which has been hit by tough competition and the energy price cap.

Centrica insisted it was trying to protect jobs, adding that 83 per cent of its workforce had already accepted the new terms.

“We’ve done everything we can with the GMB to avoid industrial action,” a spokesperson said.

“Whilst we’ve made great progress with our other unions, sadly the GMB leadership seems intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest weekend of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown.”