Luton's MPs back bid to halt controversial 'fire and rehire' tactics

MPs Sarah Owen and Rachel HopkinsMPs Sarah Owen and Rachel Hopkins
MPs Sarah Owen and Rachel Hopkins
They say firms have used the pandemic as an excuse to cut costs

Luton's two MPs are backing a new law to stop the use of ‘exploitative’ fire and rehire practice.

Labour MPs Rachel Hopkins and Sarah Owen supported Barry Gardiner MP’s Private Members’ Bill in the House of Commons on Friday, which aims to penalise employers who fire staff to rehire them on worse terms and conditions.

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During the pandemic, some employers chose to reduce labour costs by ‘firing and rehiring’ staff. This practice refers to when an employer gives notice to its workforce that all or a proportion of staff will be sacked with an offer to rehire the same workers again on lower pay and worse terms and conditions.

While fire and rehire is not new, it has gained prominence during the pandemic as a result of high-profile businesses, such as British Airways, Heathrow Airport and British Gas, using the pandemic as an excuse to force lower wages and longer hours on their workforce.

A Trades Union Congress (TUC) poll revealed that since the first lockdown in March 2020: nearly 1 in 10 workers (9%) have been told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions, nearly a fifth of 18–24-year-olds say their employer has tried to rehire them on inferior terms, and twice as many black and minority ethnic workers (15%) have been faced with fire and rehire as white workers (8%).

MPs, Trade Unions, and a large section of the public have condemned fire and rehire tactics. The Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, told the TUC last year that fire and rehire should be “illegal” and was “not just wrong but against British values”.

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Unite the Union, GMB, and other trade unions have been standing up for workers by campaigning against fire and rehire. Ms Hopkins is a Unite member and has supported the union’s campaign, including joining the national day of action against fire and rehire at Westminster.

Mr Gardiner, MP for Brent North, has introduced the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill to tackle the Government’s failure to act. The Bill aims to enshrine good practice into law and penalise unscrupulous employers.

Ms Hopkins, MP for Luton South, said: “MPs must act to stop the exploitative fire and rehire practice. Increasing job insecurity, stagnant wages and the threat of unemployment has inflicted terrible financial and mental pressure on workers.

"An effective recovery needs decent employment protections at its heart. There's no place for this abhorrent practice in a productive economy that prioritises good wellbeing.

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"The Government’s empty reassurances are not cutting it – that’s why I am standing shoulder-to-shoulder with workers from across the country by voting for Barry’s Bill.”

Ms Owen, MP for Luton North, said: “I’ll always stand up for people’s jobs in Luton North. I’ll fight to protect jobs, and create new ones.

“We’ve seen big businesses – British Airways and British Gas to name just two - trading under this country’s proud name but not in the country’s interest. It’s absolutely outrageous to see bosses using the pandemic as an excuse to get rid of thousands of workers, and replace their old contracts with worse pay, worse terms and conditions and with fewer rights at work for very similar roles.”

“I’ll be proud to vote to protect people’s jobs and their rights at work.”