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British Gas Engineers to go on strike before Christmas


25 Nov 2005

Nearly 6,000 GMB members working as British Gas engineers have today voted by a massive 4 to 1 majority to take strike action in a dispute over pensions.

The decision on the form and dates of the industrial action will be made at a GMB British Gas Engineers Shop Stewards meeting in Halesowen on Tuesday 29th November 2005. Action is likely to commence in the next four weeks.

This is a highly organised workforce with GMB representing 95% of them. They are responsible for domestic work (not gas mains) and carry out 3 million boiler services and 3 million breakdown visits a year as well as installing central heating systems. They are part of the national gas emergency response team and would make safety visits to ensure domestic appliances could be reconnected safely in the event of a major gas supply failure. They also maintain the gas lamps outside Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

The pensions dispute arises because British Gas' parent, Centrica, intends to close the engineers' final salary scheme to new starters from January.

This is the only the second time that workers have voted to take strike action to defend the pensions rights of their future work colleagues. British Gas/Centrica intends to offer new starters a career-average type pension. It would enable the company to halve its contributions. As well as the risk to their own pensions, the British Gas engineers do not want cheaper, worse 2-tier pensions for their future colleagues.

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary and lead negotiator in the gas industry said: "The engineers have shown by this huge vote that they are determined to protect their pension and the pension of future British Gas engineers. They had exactly the same agreement two years ago when British Gas/Centrica and its engineers reached a deal to increase their contributions, which the company is now breaking. That is just not acceptable.

This is a bad time of year for a dispute in the gas industry and the last thing GMB members working as gas engineers want is to leave customers with no heating and hot water. We urge British Gas/Centrica to listen to their employees, back off, and agree with our reasonable proposal to review the pension scheme at the next valuation."


Contact: Brain Strutton, GMB National Secretary on 07860 606137.

Notes to Editors:

(i) 2 years ago British Gas/Centrica gave employees the right to choose to close their schemes or to pay an increased contribution rate to keep them open. This was done in a formal vote and British Gas/Centrica promised to abide by the result. The engineers voted overwhelmingly to keep their scheme open and have paid an extra 1% contribution. British Gas/Centrica is now reneging on that agreement after only 2 years. This has infuriated the engineers.

(ii) British Gas/Centrica claims that the pension scheme has a deficit problem. In fact, this is one of the healthiest pension schemes around and is fully funded. There is no financial reason for this change.

(iii) British Gas/Centrica closed its white-collar staffs pension scheme with promises that this would not affect benefits. Now they are trying to cut the benefits they promised to protect. The engineers believe the same would happen to them if they allowed their scheme to be closed and it demonstrates why they do not trust their company on pensions.

(iv) The engineers pension scheme is due to have a full valuation in 2007. The Trade Unions proposal to British Gas/Centrica is to review the funding and cost of the scheme in light of that valuation.

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