Timetable for British Gas strike ballot announced

British Gas workers will start voting next week on whether to strike in a row over pay and conditions and could walk out on New Year’s Eve if they vote yes, a union has announced.

The GMB has accused the company of threatening “draconian cuts” to workers’ pay and conditions.

The ballot will open on December 1 and close on the 17, with the first possible strike action taking place anytime from New Year’s Eve, said the GMB.

Further strikes could be called throughout the winter, the union warned.

Justin Bowden, GMB national officer, said British Gas owners Centrica had tried to enforce pay cuts of around 20% on the workforce.

“After over 300 hours of talks with the unions they dropped the imposed cuts plan to about 10%.

“GMB members did not create the mess that Centrica is in, and it is wrong that all the risks associated with trying to turn the business’s fortunes around should be placed on the workforce.

“The message to Centrica from GMB has been clear all the way – they need to take the gun off the table, stop the threats and return to the negotiating table.”

A Centrica spokesman said: “To win back customers from our competitors and reverse the decline of our business we must have flexibility to give customers what they want, at a price they want and when they need it.

“Our current terms and conditions are stopping us doing this, and modernising the way we work is critical to our success.

“Since July we’ve spent over 300 hours in genuine and constructive negotiations with our unions, resulting in significant upward movement from our initial proposals.

“We are focused on turning our business around and protecting the well-paid and highly-skilled jobs of our colleagues.”

Centrica said it had made clear that base pay and pensions will be protected, adding that the changes reduce the wage bill by around 1.5%.