The report on the settlement in British Gas in Solidarity 602 was right to acknowledge that the concessions in the new deal are real. However, this is not some last-minute victory, nor even a score-draw, but an outcome that blunts some of the employer’s worst attacks within an overall context that is still very much a defeat for the workers. The new settlement does not return engineers to the terms they were on before new contracts were imposed. British Gas has ultimately succeeded in imposing worse conditions.
Hundreds of engineers remain sacked for refusing to accept the new contracts, and despite the new settlement apparently opening up a pathway for their re-engagement, there remains no clarity about the possible terms for this, including whether they will be deemed to have continuity of service.
Even at this late stage, despite inevitable fatigue, and despite an all-out campaign by the union in favour of acceptance of the deal, for a 25% minority to still vote for rejection shows there is a core of dissatisfaction with the outcome.
Had the engineers rolled over at an earlier stage, and not held their resolve through prolonged strikes, undoubtedly even the concessions that were won would have been unlikely. But justified admiration and praise for the resolve of the strikers has to be accompanied by a serious assessment of what the union could have done differently in order to win.
A reader, London