Margaret Greenwood MP fully supports bill which seeks to protect workers against dismissal and re-engagement on inferior terms and conditions
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/ Margaret Greenwood MP fully supports bill which seeks to protect workers against dismissal and re-engagement on inferior terms and conditions
22 Oct 2021
Today, I had
hoped to be able to speak during the Second Reading debate of Barry
and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Private Members’
Unfortunately, due to time
constraints, I and many other MPs were not able to make our speeches.
It is an incredibly important issue.
Barry Gardiner’s bill seeks to protect workers against dismissal and re-engagement on
inferior terms and conditions.
A poll conducted by Survation on
behalf of the GMB union in May of this year found that 76% of more than 1,000 people
who were questioned supported this view – including 71% of Conservative voters
who took part in the survey.
Yet today the Tories decided not to
support the bill.
Fire and rehire is not new but it has
gained prominence over the past 18 months or so because of high profile cases
involving well known employers.
In June 2020, the House of Commons
Transport Select Committee published a report criticising the use of such
tactics by British Airways. The report said British Airways had been involved
in ‘a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs and
weaken the terms and conditions of its remaining employees’. It went on to say
that BA’s behaviour was ‘a national disgrace’.
This was a damning indictment, but
the government played it down. Its response was that the actions of BA were
‘commercial decisions but they are decisions which, nevertheless, the government
Workers at Heathrow Airport, Jacobs
Douwe Egberts, Clarks, Argos, Sainsbury’s and many more household brands have
been targeted. More recently, just last month, engineers employed by Weetabix
began strike action as a result of the company’s plans to carry out an
extensive fire and rehire programme with the workforce. If workers accept the
new terms, many will lose up to £5,000 a year in wages.
A report by ACAS which was published
this summer pointed to ‘a shared anticipation that a further increase in use of
the practice might be expected at such time as the government’s furlough and
COVID-related business support initiatives are wound down, especially if the
economic recovery is slow.’
The warning signs are clear. Unless
legislation is brought forward, and unless there is clear, decisive action from
the government, employers will continue to use fire and rehire tactics.
The government has tasked ACAS with
strengthening guidance in this area – a task which is ongoing – but ministers
should be doing more.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of
State said in April that ‘…it is completely unacceptable to use threats of fire
and rehire simply as a negotiation tactic.’
The Secretary of State has repeatedly
described it as unacceptable.
Just last month, the Under Secretary
of State confirmed that the government ‘do not currently plan to legislate, but
because of its obvious importance we are keeping the matter under review.’
Ministers are simply putting off
taking action to stop employers using this unethical, exploitative and
economically damaging tactic.
The government knows that certain
employers are exploiting the covid-19 crisis to increase profits at the expense
of loyal staff who have risked their lives during the pandemic to keep
businesses going – and they are doing nothing about it other than offering
A poll published by the Trades Union Congress
(TUC) in January of this year revealed that nearly one in 10 workers have been
told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since the first
coronavirus lockdown in March 2020. The poll also revealed that 18-24 year
olds, working class people and black and minority ethnic workers are
Workers deserve respect and fair
This bill would protect workers from
exploitation by unscrupulous employers, and it also gave an opportunity for MPs
to show their support and solidarity with workers in their constituencies.
It is shameful that the Conservatives
decided not to do this.
The disgraceful practice of fire and
rehire must be ended.