Unions and MPs urge action on ‘fire and rehire’

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey
Mark Kerrison / Alamy Stock Photo

Dozens of MPs and unions have reiterated a call for so-called “fire and rehire” practices to be outlawed.

A letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urges the government to announce new legislation that cracks down on the use of such practices in next week’s Queen’s Speech.

Unions say that “fire and rehire” practices involve organisations threatening to dismiss workers unless they agree to new, usually less favourable, employment terms.

Last week, a poll conducted by the Unite union found 70% of the public want “fire and rehire” to be made illegal, while the TUC earlier this year found that one in 10 workers had been threatened with the practice during the pandemic.

The letter, organised by Unite, says: “Fire and rehire is spreading through workplaces, with now an estimated one in 10 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.”

It has been signed by 140 MPs and Lords, as well as representatives from unions including Unite, GMB and Usdaw.

Last month, British Gas engineers who did not agree to new contract terms were dismissed by the company after months of wrangling with unions.

Some organisations have either backed away from, or been temporarily barred from, going through with fire and rehire plans. British Airways confirmed in January that it would not go ahead with changes to employee contracts in its cargo division, while in February retail trade union Usdaw won a case preventing Tesco from moving staff at its Livingston warehouse onto new contracts.

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.”

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