MPs to quiz both sides in British Gas engineers’ dispute

Both sides in the British Gas engineers’ dispute have been called to give evidence to MPs as part of a hearing on the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the labour market.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee will question executives from British Gas owners Centrica and the GMB union as well as representatives from other organisations including the TUC and Resolution Foundation.

GMB members at British Gas have taken several days of strike action in protest at planned changes to their pay and conditions, and will launch a fresh wave of industrial action later this week.

The committee’s session, on February 2, is likely to examine issues such as unemployment, skills, so-called ‘fire and rehire’ and mass redundancies, workers’ rights and employment conditions, the gig-economy and insecure work.

Committee chairman Darren Jones said: “Businesses and workers have had a very tough time over the last year. Over 800,000 people have lost their jobs since the pandemic took hold and there are very real fears that many more people will face the same bleak fate over the coming months.

“There is no doubt that many businesses have faced difficult trading conditions but concerns have been raised that some employers are resorting to tactics such as ‘fire and rehire’ and seeking to downgrade pay and workers’ terms during the pandemic.

“It’s important we begin to understand the long-term impact for workers from the Covid pandemic, examining how we can improve future employment legislation to ensure the protection of workers, including those working the gig-economy, and also ensure we modernise the labour market to foster future jobs growth.”

Witnesses invited to the committee hearing include the chief executive officer of Centrica, Chris O’Shea, and GMB national officer Justin Bowden.