Centrica's British Gas faces five day labor walkout strike

Dec 21 (Reuters) - Members of the Britain’s GMB union will stage a total withdrawal of labor for five days in January at Centrica Plc’s British Gas over the company’s refusal to remove “fire and rehire” threats, the union said on Monday.

The five-day strike will run from Jan. 7 to Jan. 11, while further stoppages will be announced later, the union said in a statement.

“The only exceptions will be dealing with emergencies and problems for households with vulnerable people.”

In June, Centrica, Britain’s largest energy supplier, said it planned to cut about 5,000 jobs, almost 20% of its global workforce, and change the terms of worker contracts, as the utility deepens its restructuring efforts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its “fire and rehire” proposal would allow it to terminate existing contracts and offer fresh terms. Centrica has described the plans as an “insurance policy” if talks with unions fall apart.

“The GMB leadership’s mandate for strike action is very weak,” Centrica said in an emailed response to Reuters, adding that it had strong plans in place to mitigate any disruption caused by a strike.

“We now expect to see well over 75% of our colleagues to have accepted by the end of the year.”

The union last week voted for industrial action in January after the utility refused to remove the “fire and rehire” threats.

“There’s still time for British Gas to see sense, remove the fire and rehire threats, and negotiate a fair settlement to avoid a walkout,” Justin Bowden, national secretary of GMB said in the statement. (Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)