Gas engineers are to hold weekly protests in a dispute over new contracts.
Scottish Gas workers staged action in Leven, Fife, on Monday in protest at alleged threats to fire staff who refuse to accept pay cuts.
One Fife-based employee said he and his colleagues were distraught at the company’s attempts to change their terms and conditions, and claimed they had been betrayed.
Under the new terms we’ll get paid less for doing more.”
Scottish Gas worker.
“Last year when lockdown came we were classed as key workers,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous.
“There are engineers who went into Covid-live properties to fix people’s heating to keep them warm when they were ill.
“They were doing that while behind our backs the company was plotting to slash our terms and conditions.”
The man said he and his colleagues had been proud to work for Scottish Gas and volunteered to deliver food parcels in the company’s name to people in isolation.
“We did that for the Trussell Trust [foodbank] while on furlough and this is how we’re repaid,” he said.
Scottish Gas and British Gas, owned by energy giant Centrica, have been accused of “divide and conquer tactics” to bully staff into signing up to new terms before they are effectively sacked and brought back into employment on new contracts.
The “fire and rehire” row affects some 20,000 employees across the UK.
The changes are being fiercely opposed by the GMB union.
The Fife worker said: “Under the new terms we’ll get paid less for doing more.
“There are more holes in it than Swiss cheese.”
We just feel we’ve had the heart ripped out of us and we’re distraught.”
Scottish Gas worker.
Workers have been staging strike action against the proposals, which includes starting their working day on arrival at their first job, excluding travelling time.
The Fife worker said many people were being asked to work 156 hours a year extra, without any more pay.
“Service engineers are starting earlier and working longer hours,” he said.
He added that changes to sick pay had also angered workers.
Pressured into signing
“The protest is gathering a lot of pace and we’ll be here every Monday and Friday,” he said.
“For the most part, it’s engineers and other people with long service with the company and were proud to work for them.
“There are engineers with 30-odd years’ service.
“We just feel we’ve had the heart ripped out of us and we’re distraught.
“Some of us feel like we’re being pressured into signing.”
Our business needs to change to survive and protect 20,000 jobs.”
Leven Labour councillor Colin Davidson supported the workers at Monday’s protest near the Diageo plant, describing the company’s actions as outrageous.
“It’s awful that during a pandemic, a company that has made almost £1 billion in profit worldwide is even contemplating a change to workers’ conditions,” he said.
Centrica insists it is trying to protect jobs and that staff have only been asked to work three hours extra per week.
It described the change as “reasonable”.
A Centrica spokeswoman said 83% of employees had already agreed to the new terms.
“Our business needs to change to survive and protect 20,000 jobs,” she said.
“We know change is difficult but we have offered a fair deal that has been negotiated over 300 hours with unions – where base pay and pensions are protected.”