A significant step has been made by Centrica and unions, with the majority of workers accepting new contract terms.
Centrica – which owns Big Six supplier British Gas – came under fire earlier in the year after announcing that changes would be made to staff contracts as part of a move to make the company leaner and more effective, as it continued to struggle with stronger challenger competition eroding market share, low oil prices and the regulatory price cap which has impacted profits.
Contract changes were labeled as a ‘fire and rehire’ plan by unions however, as the company stated it would consider making the entirety of the 20,000 strong British Gas and PH Jones workforce redundant and then hiring them back with changed terms and conditions in their contracts before the end of 2020 if contract negotiations could not move forwards.
Following over 300 hours of negotiations between Centrica and its four recognised Trade Unions - UNISON, GMB, Unite and Prospect - and representatives for non-unionised colleagues, progress appears to have been made.
Yesterday (8 December), ballot results from 7,000 front-line office colleagues showed that 86% accepted the final offer made to them; these were predominantly represented by UNISON, with 76% of the unions members voting.
Centrica Storage workers represented by Unite accepted the final offer as well, while non-unionised workers were in the process of accepting the proposals by signing new contracts according to Centrica.
As such, two thirds of staff are expected to have accepted the new terms and conditions by the end of the year.
Centrica chief executive, Chris O’Shea said the company had always sought to reach a negotiated settlement, and stated he was grated that “UNISON and Unite represented colleagues have accepted our proposals and over 4000 non-union employees are processing new contracts.
“I’d like to thank those colleagues who have carefully considered, and accepted our final offer, recognising that change is critical to our future sustainability and protecting jobs at Centrica - and by doing so - helping to reposition the company for growth.
"Having the flexibility to give customers what they want, at a price they want and when they need it, is the key to becoming more competitive and is vital to our survival and future success.”