In Parliament, my Opposition Colleagues and I tried to pass a Bill banning fire and rehire tactics; the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill.
Fire and rehire should be outlawed. Allowing working people to be bullied on to lower wages and worse terms and conditions is both morally wrong and economically damaging.
The practice of fire and rehire is not a new one. Unfortunately, though, it seems to have become increasingly common during the pandemic, with some companies taking advantage of the crisis to exploit workers.
We seem to constantly see news of a major employer threatening to sack its staff unless they agree to worse pay, terms and conditions. The TUC has found that nearly one in ten workers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since March 2020.
The Government says it does not accept fire and rehire as a negotiation tactic. However, it has consistently put off taking action to stop it. At the same time, it argues that some employers may feel they need to dismiss staff and re-engage them to ensure their sustainability.
Yet, according to analysis from the Observer, 70% of companies accused of using fire and rehire tactics are making a healthy profit, with some even increasing executive pay.
The use of this appalling practice will continue to spread so long as the Government refuses to ban it. We need urgent legislation, not further delay. This is why I was proud to back the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill, which sought to protect workers against dismissal and re-engagement on inferior terms and conditions.
The Bill had its Second Reading on 22 October, but was disgracefully ‘talked-out’ by Government MPs, who purposely talked for so long that the Bill ran out of time for a vote and fell.
Indeed, Business minister Paul Scully rambled-on for more than 40 minutes to do his part in ensuring that Conservative MPs wouldn’t need to officially vote against a popular Bill that would have protected workers’ rights.
Barry Gardiner, the MP who had proposed the Bill, had tried to circumvent this Government tactic by proposing a ‘closure motion’ to force a vote, but this was defeated by Government MPs.
Conservative MPs will claim that they, technically, did not vote down the Bill, but it is clear as day that they and the Government blocked legislation that would have banned a reprehensible employment practice that even the PM has described as “completely unacceptable”.
Despite this set back, I can assure you that my Opposition Colleagues and I will continue to support the end of fire and rehire practices, including through legislation.