A British Gas engineer who signed up to new terms and conditions which some claim represent a 15% pay cut has said he felt “bullied” into agreeing to the change.
Engineers from the company who refused to accept new terms and conditions have effectively been sacked this week.
Under the new terms, engineers are required to work three hours extra every week for no payment, as well as losing benefits for evening and weekend call-outs.
GMB has said this amounts to a 15% real-terms pay cut.
Now, one Fife-based engineer, who asked to remain anonymous, said he “wasn’t brave enough” to risk his job and fight the change.
He told he how felt “bullied” into accepting the new conditions.
“I have a family, I couldn’t have walked away from my job even if it was the right thing to do,” the engineer said.
Another engineer, Fife-born John Cleary, is just one of the engineers who found themselves jobless on Thursday after choosing not to sign the contract.
He said the week had been “heartbreaking” after he was forced to return his van and all his equipment.
John is now looking into starting his own business but said this wasn’t what he hoped for at 55.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
“There’s a lot of experience just walked out of the door at British Gas.
“The company said they would give us information on pensions, but I’ve not heard a thing. We’re just locked out.
“It’s just devastating. My manager was probably feeling as bad as what we were feeling, but they didn’t raise their voice about the bad decision.
“I’m 55, this is the last thing I wanted to do.”
He said that a lot of people have been in touch to support those who fought against the new terms, and customers of British Gas have said they would cancel their boiler care packages as a result.
But he also wants to see politicians take action to end the practice of fire and rehire, which allows employers to sack workers and offer them their jobs back on reduced terms.
“If the politicians had stopped fire and rehire before Easter then we’d still be at the table with British Gas and I’d still have a job,” he said.
Union GMB, which represents the major of British Gas engineers, promised further action in response.
Gary Pearce, GMB London energy officer, said: “That British Gas doesn’t give a toss for either customers or staff is shown by the mass sackings of engineers it so badly needs for customer services that it has suspended the sale of boiler insurance cover.
“There is sadly nothing in law to stop corporate bullying by companies of their own staff to sign terms they don’t accept and sacking those who don’t submit to this bullying.
“But GMB members won’t accept the outcome of the bullying.
GMB members won’t accept the outcome of the bullying
‘Protect the future of all employees’
Asked about claims an engineer felt “bullied” by the company, a Centrica spokesperson said: “We care about all of our colleagues. That’s why we’ve had to make changes to ensure the survival of the company – to reverse our decline and protect the future of all our employees.’’
They added: “We are changing the way we work to give our customers the service they want and protect the future of our company and 20,000 UK jobs.
“The changes we need to make are reasonable and 98% of the entire company has accepted new contracts. We have not cut base pay or changed our generous final salary pensions. Our gas service engineers remain some of the best paid in the sector, earning £40,000 a year minimum.
“While change is difficult, reversing our decline which has seen us lose over three million customers, cut over 15,000 jobs and seen profits halved over the last 10 years is necessary.
“The changes will also unlock our ability to grow jobs and hire 1000 green apprentices over the next two years.”