GMB Give Notice Of Official Strike Ballot At British Gas

2 Feb 2010

GMB will serve notice this week of an official strike ballot for 8,000 members at British and Scottish Gas over attacks on jobs and terms and conditions of employment. 95% of GMB members at British and Scottish Gas have already voted, in a consultative ballot, for a formal ballot for industrial action against macho management in the company. (See Note 3). A full report of the dispute in British Gas will be considered by the Central Executive Council in London on 16 February.

Below is an email on sackings from Phil Bentley, the top manager at British Gas which GMB released last week. This responded to a company statement which replied to a GMB release asking the company to come clean on thousands of possible job losses in the Company. See Note 1 for GMB statement and Note 2 for the company denial. GMB fear that job losses will impact on sites at Stockport, Edinburgh, Uddingston near Glasgow, Leicester, Leeds, Cardiff, Oldbury in West Midlands and Southampton.

E mail from Phil Bentley:

“The big, hairy, audacious goal I’ve thrown down in One British Gas (OBG) is to reduce our non customer facing Full Time Equivalent by 25%; whether its Marketing, finance or HR or whether its in Staines or the P&Ls, whether its British Gas Business, British Gas Services (BGS) or British Gas Retail, I’m committed to taking a one off axe to the overheads that have been build up over the years, and so I’m expecting plans to deliver this. All these functions play enormously important strategic roles, but we simply cannot afford these costs anymore and I am not prepared for them to be simply be passed to customers so that we become uncompetitive in prices. The formation of OBG gives us the one off air cover to do this this year and to take a one off restructuring charge.
I recognize that under your leadership you have transformed our Information Services (IS) capability. I also acknowledge the increased IS and technology investment we need to deliver our OBG vision. However, I would like you to consider how we would achieve this in IS, following absorption of Group and BGS. It may also be time to shift some dead wood where it makes sense. Can IS deliver it’s share of the targets for OBG? What would we need to forgo? Is this too much to cut? I don’t know. But I do know that if anyone has an idea how to do this it’s you. Our consultants, OC&C are available if you want some heavy lifting doing. I’d certainly use them to look at org structures and where they might provide a challenge. So that’s the challenge and the reason for the meeting. I know it won’t be easy. Many thanks Phil”

Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for Energy said “The feedback from GMB members is that they have simply had enough of the pressure being heaped upon them, and they are prepared to fight the coming attack that Phil Bentley is undoubtedly preparing on conditions of employment and working practices. There is no doubt Phil Bentley will now try to present himself as reasonable and sympathetic to engineers concerns. The fact is he has set out an aggressive agenda around flexibility, productivity and performance management. Our members are starting to understand that there is a threat to the terms and conditions of employment that we have fought for over many years. Senior management are in denial about the real mood amongst employees. We are currently agreeing the ballot timetable and process. Members will be kept advised of developments. We will serve the official notice of the ballot to the company this week. There is still time for the company to come to their senses and sit down and try and agree a way forward. GMB have put forward a very reasonable set of demands to try and move the dispute forward but frankly we think Mr. Bentley is hell bent on conflict with his employees. If Phil Bentley is not stopped, he poses a threat not only to our members but to the reputation of British and Scottish Gas.”