Fire and Rehire is an appalling practice that is becoming more and more common in workplaces across the United Kingdom. Major household names like British Gas, BA, Weetabix, TESCO, ASDA and Clarks have tried to use the current pandemic and economic crisis to bully and intimidate working people into accepting big cuts to their pay and conditions – or risk losing their job. We’ve also seen Fire and Rehire used in the public sector, for example in Local Government and the Fire and Rescue Service.
Let me be clear – this should be against the law. Workers deserve respect and fair treatment. That’s why last Friday, I voted for the Bill proposed by Labour MP Barry Gardiner to outlaw Fire and Rehire once and for all. If it had been successful, the Bill would have brought security and fairness to millions of working people and their families across the UK.
TUC research has shown that almost 1 in 10 working people have experienced fire and rehire tactics during the pandemic. A massive 75% of the public want the practice to be made illegal. Labour MPs turned out to back the Bill to end Fire and Rehire but unfortunately Conservative MPs turned out in force to block the Bill using Parliamentary games. We know that our rights at work are not safe in their hands, and all their warm words count for nothing if they’re not prepared to use the law to strengthen workplace rights and make work more secure.
Labour’s commitment to strengthening rights at work is crystal clear. I want to make sure you’ve seen Labour’s plan for a new deal for working people, launched recently at Labour Party Conference: http://www.labourunions.org.uk/newdeal. It’s a comprehensive plan to improve the lives of working people by strengthening individual and collective rights. These are just a few of the measures a Labour Government will bring in:
- Labour will strengthen rights at work for all workers, from day one on the job. We’ll create a single status of worker, so everyone is entitled to basic rights and protections like sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal. And we’ll remove the qualifying period for basic rights at work – so everyone is protected from their first day on the job.
- Labour will end fire and rehire so workers can be safe in the knowledge that terms and conditions negotiated in good faith can’t be ripped up under threat of dismissal.
- Labour will make work more family-friendly, and make it easier to balance work with home, community and family life. We’ll extend statutory maternity and paternity leave, and review and improve the shared parental leave system. Labour will make flexible working a day one right for all workers by default. We’ll bring in a new ‘right to switch off’ outside of working hours, and we’re committed to achieving a better work-life balance while raising pay.
- Labour will ban zero-hours contracts. All workers will have the right to a regular contract and predictable hours, reasonable notice of any changes in shifts and wages for cancelled shifts paid in full.
- Labour will strengthen trade union rights, raising pay and conditions. We have seen during the pandemic the role that unions have played in protecting workers health and safety, fighting to secure pay and jobs, and reaching agreements that have kept our country moving. We know that unionised workplaces are more likely to provide decent pay, good training, and benefits, such as holiday and sick pay, above the statutory minimum. That’s why Labour will strengthen trade unions by repealing anti-trade union laws, including the Trade Union Act, and introducing new rights to help unions recruit, organise and win a better deal for their members.
- Labour will introduce sectoral collective bargaining and fair pay agreements to drive up pay and conditions for all workers. Beginning in social care, we’ll reverse the decades-long decline in collective bargaining coverage by introducing Fair Pay Agreements, negotiated through sectoral collective bargaining, to agree minimum standards across industries on issues including pay and pensions, working time and holidays, training, work organisation, diversity and inclusion, health and safety and the deployment of new technologies.
The link from the workplace to the Labour Party through its affiliated trade unions is what makes Labour unique. I hope we can continue to work collaboratively to tackle the urgent problems we face as a country, from stagnating wages to insecure work. I am always keen to hear your ideas and priorities and to hear about the issues trade union members are facing at work, so please do get in touch if there is ever anything you want to raise with me.