Trade unions representing millions of UK workers and Labour MPs and Lords from across the country have issued a joint call for the government to ban fire and rehire as pressure builds for ministers to take action.
Nearly 20 unions and more than 140 MPs and Lords joined together as part of Unite the union’s campaign to prevent employers from using the UK’s weak employment laws to raid wages and cut terms such as sick pay.
In a letter sent to Boris Johnson, the unions and politicians called on the prime minister to use the Queen’s Speech on May 11 to introduce legislation outlawing the controversial practice.
Pressure is mounting on the government to take action as soon as possible, with a Unite commissioned poll released last week finding that 70 per cent of the public want it made illegal.
The TUC found that already one in 10 workers had been threatened with fire and rehire during the pandemic, with that number set to grow dramatically as furlough ends unless the law is changed.
Last month in the House of Commons, Paul Scully MP, parliamentary-under-secretary of state for business, said the government “will tackle” fire and rehire, which he condemned as “bully-boy tactics”.
Unite has launched a major national campaign to end fire and rehire in the UK, saying that the ease with which workers’ employment conditions can be worsened is a boon for bad bosses.
In the letter sent to the prime minister, the joint signatories wrote, “Fire and rehire is spreading through workplaces, with now an estimated one in ten UK workers undergoing a threat to their jobs.
“But it is rarely, if ever, implemented as a response to business need. Indeed, one employer attempting to force through cuts to terms and conditions has just recorded record profits.
“One minister has described fire and rehire as ‘bully boy tactics’. Unless something is done urgently it will only accelerate further putting unnecessary stress and strain on families across the UK.
“UK workers should have the same protections as workers in other countries. Fire and rehire is outlawed in much of Europe and it should be no different here.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Fire and rehire is ripping through our workplaces like a disease.
“Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.
“This Conservative government can no longer get away with mealy mouthed expressions of sympathy for those at the sharp end of this awful practice.
“Working people can see who is standing up for them and expect fire and rehire to be outlawed during the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.”
Unite, assistant general secretary for legal and politics Howard Beckett added, “It’s quite clear that the public is firmly on the side of working people when it comes to the horrific practice of fire and rehire.
“There is no grey area here – they can see that this is an objectionable practice which should be banned,” he noted.
“The government has to get on the same page as the voters on this, and fast.
“It can do so with the Queen’s Speech next week, bringing forward legislation to end fire and rehire to give the working people of this country the same protection as workers elsewhere, such as those in Ireland and Spain.”
By Ryan Fletcher