‘Fire and rehire’ tactics widespread during pandemic, warns TUC

Elliot Chappell

The TUC has warned that ‘fire and rehire’ tactics have become widespread during the pandemic, with new polling finding that nearly one in ten workers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms amid the Covid crisis.

Commenting on the release of the fresh research, Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady described the tactics as “plain wrong” and said “everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work”.

The research, commissioned by the TUC and conducted by BritainThinks, revealed that almost a quarter of workers – 24% – reported that their working terms, such as pay or hours, have been downgraded since the first lockdown in March.

One in three – 34% – workers between the age of 18 and 24 said their terms at work had deteriorated since the first wave of the pandemic, and nearly a third – 30% – of workers earning below £15,000 reported the same.

The research from the TUC emerges amid ongoing strike action by GMB members who work for British Gas, after 89% of the members of the Labour-affiliated union voted for the industrial action in a strike ballot last month.

The Labour leadership has expressed solidarity with the workers. GMB has called on the public to ask why Centrica boss Chris O’Shea is planning a pay cut “in the depths of winter” despite reported operating profits of £901m in 2019.

The affiliated trade union has highlighted that Centrica declared an adjusted operating profit of £229m for its domestic heating business in the UK in the six months to June 30th last year, which was up 27% on the previous year.

“Fire and rehire tactics have no place in modern Britain and must be outlawed,” O’Grady declared today. “Boris Johnson promised to make the UK the best place in the world to work in. It’s high time he delivered on this promise.

“That means fast-tracking his much-delayed employment bill. And it means abandoning any attempt to water down hard-won workers’ rights from the EU.”

The government promised in 2019 that it would bring forward a new employment bill to improve people’s rights at work and the TUC has said that improving employment rights is a key test for the Conservative ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Labour and trade unions declared earlier this month that they would fight plans to rip up UK workers’ rights. The Financial Times revealed that a proposed package of deregulatory measures was being put together by the Department for Business.

The plans include ending the 48-hour working week, “tweaking” rights to rest breaks at work, not including overtime pay in holiday pay entitlement calculations and scrapping the need for businesses to log daily reporting of working hours.

Labour has announced that it will force a parliamentary vote on Monday to safeguard employment protections and prevent ministers from “taking a wrecking ball to hard-won rights” now that the Brexit transition period has ended.

Keir Starmer took a stand in September last year against ‘fire and rehire’ practices, whereby workers are given notice of redundancy and later rehired on worse pay and conditions, describing them as “against British values”.

He told TUC Congress 2020: “’Fire and re-hire’ tactics are wrong. They’re against British values. They should also be illegal. These tactics punish good employers, hit working people hard and harm our economy.

The Labour leader added: “I’m calling on the government to act now. Introduce legislation to end fire and re-hire, and give working people the security they need. If you do that, you will have our full support.”

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