Boss of British Gas owner was sent 'excrement' amid pay and strike row

Boss of British Gas owner Centrica says his wife and teenage son were sent ‘package of excrement’ amid row with engineers over pay

  • Chris O’Shea told MPs the package was received by his wife and teenage son 
  • GMB union have staged 12 strikes this year and will walk out again on Friday 
  • Could see more than 200,000 households face delays to their boiler repairs 

Chris O’Shea told MPs today that the package was received by his wife and teenage son with a note complaining about how employees were being treated

The boss of British Gas owner Centrica was sent a package of excrement amid a pay row at the firm.

Chris O’Shea told MPs today that the package was received by his wife and teenage son with a note complaining about how employees were being treated.

Members of the GMB union have staged 12 strikes this year and will walk out again on Friday for four days, as the union campaigns against new contracts it says cut pay and increase the working week for engineers under a so-called fire and rehire policy.

‘I know this puts a lot of pressure on people,’ Mr O’Shea told the Business Select Committee.

‘Only yesterday my wife and teenage son had a package of excrement delivered to them with a note about fire and rehire.

‘This is something that affects absolutely everybody. I’m not immune to this.’

Friday’s strike could see more than 200,000 households face delays to their boiler repairs during some of the coldest weeks of winter.

In his evidence, GMB national officer Justin Bowden said that, in his 25 years as a union official, he has never seen so much pressure put on workers to accept new contracts, including an ‘endless stream’ of emails and telephone calls.

He told MPs that the GMB has a history of successfully agreeing changes with companies, including British Gas, but he criticised the threat of fire and rehire.

He accused the company of ‘poisoning the well’ by issuing formal notification of changes to contracts last summer before an agreement could be reached.

Engineers are being told to work ‘harder and faster’, with a longer working week, he said.

Members of the GMB union have staged 12 strikes this year and will walk out again on Friday for four days. Protesters are seen at the Centrica HQ on January 22 

Mr O’Shea said his aim is to protect well-paid jobs and improve the competitiveness of the company rather than see a continuation of redundancies and a move to employing more contractors.

Basic pay rates are being protected and it is ‘reasonable’ to increase the working week by three hours to 40, he said.

Mr O’Shea called for a clarification of the law on issuing formal notices about changes to terms and conditions, adding that he is committed to working with the GMB to try to resolve the dispute.

Committee chairman Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, 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.’ 

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