Modernising our business

Chris O'Shea

By Chris O'Shea
Group Chief Executive

Email to colleagues from Chris O'Shea, Group Chief Executive, Centrica

Dear colleague,

I have spent a lot of time over the past several weeks thinking about our proposals to modernise Centrica and change our terms and conditions. I have read many comments, answered many questions and had conversations with some of you about what we are doing and why. I have heard the strength of feeling, of upset, of worry. I have also heard many views from people that reinforce that what we are proposing is the right thing to do.

Some people will benefit from some of the changes. I’m really proud we are proposing to introduce a healthcare plan for everyone in the UK, and a free share award which is currently proposed at £500, linked to company performance – it’s important we all share in the success of the company.

Undoubtedly, many will be impacted to some degree, some more than others. I want to reiterate once again that we will not reduce anyone’s base pay – but I’m aware that in proposing we increase colleagues’ hours to 37.5 or 40 per week, some feel that is an effective pay cut and that I’ve been deliberately opaque with my choice of words. That isn’t true – I recognised that it would be a number of weeks from the point I first mentioned changes to T&Cs to the beginning of consultation and in light of sizeable pay cuts some other companies have proposed and made, I wanted to provide you with assurance that we would not be doing the same.

I believe it’s right that we create fairness and consistency. Maybe you disagree, but I cannot justify, for instance, that one colleague has 30 days of holiday, where another has 20 days. We’re proposing that all colleagues have 25 days’ annual leave. I can’t justify why just 10% of our colleagues have a healthcare plan and the remainder goes without. Our proposal is for everyone to have the same access to wellbeing support regardless of their job type or level. There are many, many inconsistencies like this that we’re trying to address.

I would love to uplift everyone to the highest benefit, rather than reduce benefits for some – but we all know this wouldn’t be possible or sustainable if we want to win. I would also love not to ask colleagues to make a change to the way they work, but we have to be more flexible and be able to respond to more customers, more quickly and in ways they want us to.

So, do we stick with rigidity, disparity, unfairness, complexity and benefits that we can’t afford? I don’t believe we should. I don’t believe we can if we want to reverse our decline, stabilise the business and get to a place where we’re holding onto customers and attracting new ones.

I have heard many of you express a strong feeling that it shouldn’t be the hardworking colleagues who have to suffer for the actions of past management. Have there been mistakes in the past? Yes of course, we all make them, but there have also been many external factors that have been outside our control. I can’t undo the past. I can only look forward.

It’s time to have your voice heard

Through the past five weeks, as you know, we’ve been sharing the detail behind the proposed changes to terms and conditions. We have now laid out everything on the table, and the detail of our proposals which we shared with you in July can be seen on the intranet. It’s now time for your representatives to suggest any alternatives to what we’ve proposed.

This isn’t about ‘will we’ or ‘won’t we’ make changes; we must change. But could we do things differently to what’s proposed? Absolutely. I have spoken to the representatives myself and asked, what would you do instead? I ask the same of you. Let’s have a conversation, a discussion.

For those of you who may not believe we are committed to negotiations, I ask that you give us a chance. We will review and discuss all of your ideas with your representatives, and we remain committed to achieving a negotiated outcome. I will do everything I can to achieve that whilst ensuring the sustainability of the company and aiding our future growth ambitions.

There is a future

I want us to be successful. I have no ulterior motive – I cannot succeed if the company doesn’t. None of us can. I want more customers to experience how brilliant our brands and services could be in a transformed Centrica. While difficult, I know that the decisions we are making are the right ones. No doubt there will be some mistakes along the way, and I will never be afraid to say when I get things wrong. It happens regularly.

As your CEO, doing nothing is not an option. If I did that, we would carry on losing customers, see our earnings continue to reduce, putting all our futures at risk. I love this company and I know most of you do too. Let’s get through these tough times together. If we work collaboratively, I’m convinced we’ll succeed together.

Thank you for your time.