The plan by Centrica, owner of British Gas, ‘to fire and rehire’ its 20,000 employees is the latest example of organisations using the coronavirus emergency as a smokescreen to shed jobs, and erode pay and conditions of workers.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said the decision of the energy giant follows on from other high profile employers, such as British Airways and the University of Sheffield, which have also adopted similar ‘deplorable’ employment practices during the pandemic.

Unite represents Centrica workers including electrical services’ engineers, as well as those employed at power stations and at Centrica Storage Ltd.

Unite regional officer Mark Pettifer said: “The notice that Centrica has given the trade unions that it is going to ‘fire and rehire’ its 20,000 staff on what, we believe, will be inferior pay and employment conditions is deplorable.

“It is part of a disturbing trend where employers are using the pandemic to shed staff and erode employment conditions.

“Centrica is adopting the same tactics as BA and is using Covid-19 as a smokescreen to cut jobs of loyal and dedicated staff who have worked through the lockdown providing energy to the nation.

“Centrica has been in consultations with the unions for the last fortnight over its future plans and now in an act of bad faith unveils its ‘fire and rehire’ plans. It smacks of blackmail – ‘If you don’t do what we want, we will issue notice of dismissals’.

“Unite urges the Centrica management to have an urgent rethink and engage constructively with the trade unions to tackle the specific issues facing Centrica and, more generally, the UK energy sector post-Covid-19.”

In June, Centrica announced that it would be axing of 5,000 jobs, primarily at management level. Before lockdown the company faced a situation of customers leaving to go to smaller suppliers, the energy price cap and falling gas prices.


Notes to editors:

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.