Today ballot results have been returned for 7,000 front-line office colleagues, with most of these employees represented by UNISON. The ballot for our office colleagues has resulted in 86% acceptance of the final offer, with 76% of UNISON members voting. Our GMB represented office employees voted by 72% to accept the final offer with a 63% turnout.
In addition, our Centrica Storage colleagues represented by Unite, have accepted the final offer and our 4,000 non-unionised UK colleagues are in the process of accepting our proposals by signing new contracts. We now expect approximately two thirds of our colleagues to have accepted the new terms and conditions by the end of this year, which is testament to our colleagues understanding of the need for change.
In June 2020 we announced significant changes to how we operate in order to create a simpler, leaner business, focused on allowing us to best serve the changing expectations of our customers. The changes included delayering our structure, significantly reducing our management population and a proposal to modernise our colleague terms and conditions to reflect customers’ changing needs.
Since July we’ve spent over 300 hours in constructive negotiations with our four recognised Trade Unions; UNISON, GMB, Unite and Prospect, and representatives for non-unionised colleagues. The objective of the talks was to try and reach a negotiated settlement that would see over 80 different employee contracts, with more than 7,000 variations in terms, reduced to four standard contracts across the company.
Base pay and pensions have been protected from the outset as part of the discussions and following a period of tough negotiations with significant concessions made, our Trade Unions put revised proposals to their members for ballot.
Unfortunately, in line with the recommendation of its leadership, the GMB membership has rejected the final offer associated with changes to terms and conditions for most of our engineering colleagues (around 7,500) and are also balloting to hold industrial action. Our 500 employees in Electrical Services, represented by Unite have also rejected the proposals.
Commenting on the significant progress made, Centrica Chief Executive, Chris O’Shea said:
“Our intention has always been to reach a negotiated settlement with our Trade Unions and colleague representatives, and I am grateful that our UNISON and Unite represented colleagues have accepted our proposals and over 4000 non-union employees are processing new contracts. I’d like to thank those colleagues who have carefully considered, and accepted our final offer, recognising that change is critical to our future sustainability and protecting jobs at Centrica - and by doing so - helping to reposition the company for growth. Having the flexibility to give customers what they want, at a price they want and when they need it, is the key to becoming more competitive and is vital to our survival and future success.
"It is very disappointing that despite shaping the proposals with us and UNISON over several months, the GMB changed their mind at the last minute and recommended that their members reject those same proposals.
"It is not too late for the GMB leadership to reverse their march towards industrial action which will harm our customers at the time of year they most need us, and to join the other unions that recommend the negotiated proposals which offer the best rates in the market in return for productivity improvements.”
We will start issuing contracts to those colleagues who are not part of a collective, and we remain confident that the vast majority of colleagues understand the need for change and will respond positively. That being the case, we would expect a substantial majority of our colleagues to have accepted the new terms and conditions by the end of the year.
We will meet with trade union representatives over the next few days to listen to their insight on the reasons for rejection, and to consult with them on our proposed next steps in respect of our field collectives.
The GMB ballot for industrial action is expected to return results on 17th December.