Ahead of the first anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, pollster Survation has carried out comprehensive research for Unite the union of MPs and industry leaders on their post-pandemic priorities and attitudes for businesses and workers.
With business leaders indicating that they would back an improvement of workers’ rights, Unite says that the findings should see the government ‘seize the initiative’ and move to outlaw the horrific practice of fire and rehire. Fire and rehire sees employers attack wages and conditions and is at the centre of industrial disputes presently raging across the country.
The polling, which took place over three different waves during the latest lockdown in January and February, found that:
- A majority of MPs and industry leaders favour an improvement to workers’ rights.
- A majority of business and industry leaders would like to see more generous terms and conditions for sick pay.
- Post-pandemic planning is the top priority for MPs and business leaders. As a net overall score, post-pandemic planning (83 per cent) and extending the JRS (76 per cent) remain the top two priorities for the government to address.
- 73 per cent of businesses have been harmed by the pandemic.
Commenting on the poll, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said. “These findings show that there’s no clamour for going back to business as usual after the pandemic. Given the wide support among MPs – including one fifth of Tory MPs – and business leaders for improved workers’ rights, I urge the government to build on this.
‘Arrest abuse of fire and rehire’
“Seize the initiative and move to arrest the latest abuse of UK workers’ rights, the disease of fire and rehire that is ripping through our workplaces. Millions of workers are now fighting to hang onto the wages that support their families as contracts signed in good faith are being destroyed by bad employers without consequence.
“Fire and rehire belongs in the dark ages, not a modern-day nation, so I say to the government do the right thing: make the first law of the post-pandemic period one that bans this hideous practice.
“There is also agreement that the pitiful level of poverty sick pay in this country must be raised. Matt Hancock admitted that he could not live on the miserable pennies of support we give to workers who have to isolate during the pandemic. It must be improved, and the majority of business leaders agree that this should happen.
“MPs and business leaders have also made it clear that planning for recovery must be the government’s top priority. In six months’ time, the government is determined that the jobs retention scheme will end. We think September is just too soon and will mean rising unemployment going into the winter.
“2020 was a year of jobs destruction, 2021 ought to be a year of jobs creation but we have yet to see ambition or energy on this from the government. The prime minister’s promise to build back better must not be a hollow one.”
Concluding McCluskey added, “Our country has suffered both the hardest economic hurt and the largest loss of life per population in the western world. It now sits on the precipice of a further frightening economic contraction; only mass investment and action now will save jobs, avert mass unemployment and recover the economy.”
The poll of MPs and business leaders by Survation can be accessed here.
By Ryan Fletcher