'It's a slap in the face' says country's top British Gas engineer sacked as hundreds forced out

The country’s top British Gas engineer who was sacked after he didn’t sign up to fire and rehire terms said it’s a “slap in the face” for loyal workers.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 9:18 am
Craig Watson was sacked after not signing up under 'fire and hire' terms

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It comes as Union bosses say around 1000 out of 6000 engineers have been lost in the UK, with hundreds in Scotland, after bitter industrial action failed to turn the company round.

Ross Calder, who was ranked the best engineer by customers this year, was heartbroken to hand over his van after nearly twenty years service.

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Ross Calder, says he hopes to work as a self employed engineer but the loss has hit his family hard

The dad-of-two from Winchburgh said “My wife is an NHS nurse who works shifts. I couldn’t work 7am to 9pm 7 days a week with mandatory overtime. I didn’t want to leave but they have taken it too far. They should be ashamed they have allowed this to happen. After all the loyalty and hard work over nearly 20 years, it’s a real slap in the face.”

“It's so disappointing. The company know what they are doing is brutal or they wouldn’t have put fire and rehire threat on the table from day one. I know many who hung on to the end but couldn’t accept these terms.”

It’s understood British Gas has suspended the sale of boiler insurance cover due to the shortage of engineers, while hundreds of skilled workers left the business.

Despite hundreds of workers being forced out, the Union has warned of further industrial action from those who signed reduced deals – and predicted hundreds more could walk out.

Craig Watson, 40, worked his last day last week after 20 years with the company. The dad-of-one from Dunfermline said: “I feel really down about it. I didn’t expect my job to end this way. But I couldn’t sign the new terms because service will suffer. I couldn’t do that, the nature of the job is about being able to keep people safe. Piling on the jobs and pressure impacts on delivery.”

"My Dad worked for the company. Giving up what I know has been really hard but I couldn’t sign up to these terms. I knew I couldn’t do my best for customers and I’d never see my family.”

Mr Watson said thirteen of his colleagues out of a team of 70 have lost their jobs, after months of strikes calling for a fair deal.

GMB Union has launched a new dispute and senior organiser Hazel Nolan said: “They have blown up the business. Hundreds are now unemployed in the middle of a pandemic. Numbers who have left since the start of this dispute are well over 1000. Unless British Gas can treat engineers with respect hundreds more will walk out. The new terms are brutal. The firm can no longer hide behind covid-19. It’s a mess, now they don’t have numbers they need to meet contractual obligations for customers. It’s a huge mistake. They didn’t expect to lose so many.

"We know it’s up to 15 per cent of engineers lost though it has been downplayed. We are now putting in claim for terms the members have lost. We want to make sure they are not overworked. It has been an uphill battle but we are still fighting for our engineers. They want to look after their customers. And they deserve to be valued.”

A Centrica spokesperson

“We are changing the way we work to give our customers the service they want and protect the future of our company and 20,000 UK jobs. The changes we need to make are reasonable and 98% of the entire company has accepted new contracts. We have not cut base pay or changed our generous final salary pensions. Our gas service engineers remain some of the best paid in the sector, earning £40,000 a year minimum. While change is difficult, reversing our decline which has seen us lose over three million customers, cut over 15,000 jobs and seen profits halved over the last 10 years is necessary. The changes will also unlock our ability to grow jobs and hire 1000 green apprentices over the next two years.’’

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