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British Gas closure treats ‘staff as pawns to be sacrificed,’ say unions

Unite | GMB

3 min read Partner content

Trade unions have slammed British Gas for unnecessary job losses, while its ‘top brass’ continues to enjoy multi-million pound pay packages.

GMB, the union for British Gas workers, has reacted angrily to the announcement this morning that British Gas intends to close its office in Oldbury and put 684 staff, most of whom are GMB members, out of a job.

The announcement follows news on Monday that parent company Centrica will cut 3,000 jobs in 2016, having cut 800 jobs in the first three months of the year.

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary, said "This announcement has come completely out of the blue and is further evidence of the way British Gas now sees staff as pawns to be sacrificed when it suits.

“The Oldbury office has been performing well, the staff there have been delivering everything asked of them and more, yet all the while the company's top brass on their multi-million pound pay packages have been harbouring secret plans to shut them down.”

Commenting on the 3,000 job cuts planned for the year, the union said that staff are ‘confused and disillusioned,’ adding that the Government will now need to look at revising its carbon emission targets as many jobs will be cut form the insulation sector.

Regarding today’s announcement, Strutton added: “The news will be devastating for the workforce and the local community, coming hot on the heels of Npower's decision to also cut back its operations in Oldbury. GMB will fight British Gas to try to protect every job we can but today things look bleak for the Oldbury workers."

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Labour MP for Warley - which includes Oldbury - John Spellar, asked David Cameron if the government will be intervening to save these jobs, or at minimum, establish a task force “to create alternative opportunities this loyal and hardworking workforce.”

Mr Cameron replied: “We will make sure that a task force of ministers is available to talk to the companies, to talk to the local community, to provide all the assistance in terms of retraining and other things that can be done to help.”

Meanwhile the largest trade union, Unite, felt the job losses would be a ‘hammerblow’ for the workforce, who may not want to retrain or relocate.

Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer Paresh Patel added: “Unite’s position is that we need to do what we can to keep this site open and the 45-day consultation process will provide us with a platform to hear about the proposals in more detail and also to put forward alternative solutions.”

“British Gas is looking at relocating its Oldbury operation between three other sites; Uddingston (near Glasgow), Leicester and Stockport. The plan is to create further roles at these three sites, making those ‘centres of excellence’, but most people may not want to relocate.”

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