“In the first year of the pandemic alone, a staggering 3 million people – almost one in ten workers – faced attacks on their rights & wage cuts, thanks to employers using Fire & Rehire tactics.”Andy McDonald MP.
I’ll be speaking in the debate to outlaw the pernicious practice of Fire and Rehire – the process by which an employer dismisses an employee, and then offers them re-engagement on reduced terms and conditions or pay.
It is not a new phenomenon, but over the course of the Covid pandemic certain employers, including British Airways, Tesco, Weetabix, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Clarks, and many, many others have been happy to use the cover of the crisis to attack the rights of their employees and slash their wages.
Over a year ago, whilst serving as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections, I brought forward an Opposition Day Debate calling on the Government to put an end to the practice. The fact that, twelve months on, it has taken my friend and comrade Barry Gardiner MP to bring forward a Private Member’s Bill to legislate against Fire and Rehire is an indictment of this Government’s abject failure to support working people.
Ministers have spent the past year coming to the dispatch box of the House of Commons, wringing their hands and condemning the practice, but they have done absolutely nothing to stop it. Opposition MPs have offered to work with the Government on converting their condemnation into legislation, but that offer has been thrown back in our faces.
Sadly, yet again, it is working people who have had to pay the price for the Government’s inaction. In the first year of the pandemic alone, a staggering 3 million people – almost one in ten workers – faced attacks on their rights and cuts to their wages, thanks to their employers using Fire and Rehire tactics. And it has been young workers, along with Black, Asian, and minority ethnic workers, and those on the lowest pay who have been disproportionately impacted.
Allowing working people to be bullied on to lower wages and worse terms and conditions is not only morally wrong, it is also economically illiterate. Many of the companies that are culpable have been making fortunes throughout the pandemic, and they are firing and rehiring because they can. It is an abuse – a pure exploitation of the very workers who created their wealth.
These businesses are only able to get away with this because our employment laws are so weak, with no enforcement agencies worthy of the name. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this Conservative Government is also determined to maintain and strengthen the legislative shackles on trade unions, and try to frustrate them at every turn from speaking up and defending their members.
It is high time that we began to treat the working people of this country with the dignity, decency, and respect they deserve. We cannot allow the austerity of the past decade to continue, which has licensed the rich and powerful to shift the burden of our economic recovery onto the shoulders of working people and those most in need, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of the most vulnerable in our society.
That is why we urgently need to put an end to Fire and Rehire once and for all, and instead present the working people of our country with a New Deal, so that each and every one gains the full rights and protections they ought to have, and trade unions are empowered to organise, bargain and win for them.
Only then will we see justice in the workplace. Only then will we create an economy and a society that truly cares for people, not simply private profit and the protection of capital. Only then will we build a better world for all.