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British Gas strike heats up as engineers take to picket lines again

A ROW broke out today over whether British Gas boss Chris O’Shea lied to an MP over the company’s fire-and-rehire attack on engineers’ pay and conditions.

Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth Stephen Doughty told the House of Commons on Monday that Mr O’Shea had tried to suggest to him in September that the company was not using such tactics, “despite having written to [GMB] members in July to do just that.”

Parent company Centrica denied Mr Doughty’s claim and said that it had written to the MP asking him to retract the comments.

More than 7,000 engineers begin a fresh four-day strike on Friday, following eight previous days of action, in an increasingly bitter dispute over the company’s attempt to worsen working conditions and impose pay cuts of up to 15 per cent.

The company sent “Section 188” letters, required advance notice of redundancy, to its entire British workforce before negotiations had even started, the union pointed out.

GMB national secretary Justin Bowden said: “The strikes provoked by British Gas leave more than 150,000 homes in a backlog for services and 200,000 planned annual service visits were axed in January. 

“Sadly, there is no respite in store for customers or staff because British Gas fails to accept that the only way to end the dispute with the engineers’ bargaining group is to take ‘fire and rehire’ off the table.” 

Centrica claims that the contractual changes are necessary to protect jobs and that 83 per cent of its workforce have accepted them.

GMB officials and British Gas bosses are due to appear before the Commons business select committee next Tuesday.

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