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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 14:28 GMT
British Gas strike threat lifted
British Gas van and engineer
Union members will now be consulted about the deal
A series of strikes planned by British Gas engineers have been called off following a deal over a pensions row.

Under the agreement, British Gas owner Centrica has agreed to allow 1,700 apprentices and junior staff to join its final salary scheme.

But from next March, new starters will have to go on to an alternative pension based on career-average wages.

The agreement follows three days of intense negotiations between Centrica and the GMB union.

Deal welcomed

Engineers who repair domestic boilers had planned to hold industrial action on 21 December, and again on 6 and 9 January over the dispute.

I am pleased that we have managed to reach a sustainable agreement
Chris Weston, British Gas

The action has now been suspended while unions are consulted about Centrica's offer.

"I am pleased that we have managed to reach a sustainable agreement that I believe will help the viability of the final salary scheme for our existing staff, while also offering an excellent pensions package for new engineers," Chris Weston, head of British Gas Home Services, said.

Brian Strutton, National Secretary of the GMB union, added that while he was "disappointed" at Centrica's decision to close the pension scheme to new starters he was pleased almost 2,000 staff had won the chance to join the scheme.

"In addition, we have secured 35m extra funding and written guarantees on the future security of pensions in British Gas Services," he added.

The row broke out after Centrica unveiled plans to close down its current pension scheme to new employees in January.

The GMB had called for the firm to delay its decision for a year while the scheme was re-evaluated.

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