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Protest near Bearsted Road roundabout in Maidstone over British Gas' 'fire and rehire' scheme

British Gas engineers in Maidstone have joined 7,000 colleagues on strike today.

Five people were seen near the Bearsted Road roundabout on the A249 with placards and flags supporting the protest over a "fire and rehire" scheme.

Protestors on the A249 roundabout near Next in Maidstone. Picture: UKNiP
Protestors on the A249 roundabout near Next in Maidstone. Picture: UKNiP

The protest is part of ongoing industrial action over new contracts issued to workers that were said to have removed a lot of their benefits.

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “Strike days will go ahead at British Gas after talks at ACAS faltered because the company refused to end the fire and rehire notice.

“GMB’s executive has determined action could continue to mid-April in this deadlocked dispute.

“GMB entered into these ACAS brokered talks in good faith, but a deal is only possible if the company takes its fire and rehire plan off the table.

“After 18 days of strikes, more than 210,000 homes are in a backlog for repairs and 250, 000 planned annual service visits have been axed.

“The company is misleading the media that it is catching up after 24 hours.”

A socially distanced protest in Maidstone. Picture: UKNiP
A socially distanced protest in Maidstone. Picture: UKNiP

This is the third time workers across Kent have stood on the picket line over the talks. In January, protests were held in Ashford and Medway.

It is claimed the new terms and conditions would see engineers and other employees lose thousands of pounds a year and would have a detrimental effect on family and wellbeing.

Proposals include longer working days, a reduction in overtime payments in the winter, removal of weekend and bank holiday pay and a three-year pay freeze.

A spokesman from Centrica, which owns British Gas, said: "We have plans in place to manage industrial action but we’re sorry for any disruption this is causing to our customers.

"We’ll continue to prioritise vulnerable customers and emergency situations."

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