18 August 2021

Government must legislate against fire and rehire, the UK’s new industrial disease

The government needs to legislate against bully-boy fire and rehire tactics, says PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka

Britain is gripped by a new industrial disease; it’s called fire and rehire. Unreasonable bosses are telling loyal staff they are fired and can be rehired on worse pay and conditions to do the same job.

I’m supporting Labour MP Barry Gardiner’s campaign against this terrible practice.

In May, Barry won the MP’s lottery, to introduce a private member’s bill of his choice. As we all know there are many good causes, he could have chosen but fire and rehire is one of the most pressing problems facing trade unions across the UK.

It’s not dodgy backstreet companies doing this, it’s the biggest names on our high street. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Argos are all at it. So are Clarks, British Gas and Heathrow Airport. The question is will PCS members be next?

Homes England and Mitie tried it with our members but backed off after we stood firm against this bully-boy tactic. So far, we have been fortunate but for how much longer?

The fire and rehire concept could easily find its way into our sector, so we must be on our guard.

Barry Gardiner told me that on the picket line at JDE in Banbury and Brush HQ in Ashby-de-la-Zouche, workers spoke about how their companies used to be great places to work. The family of one woman had given over 150 years of service to the company. At Brush, another man had given 53 years of his life. They could not believe that after all that time, they were being treated this way. In every case new management had come in and loyal staff were treated like digits on a spreadsheet.

There is unimaginable stress being put on these workers. They dread the next bill coming through the post, unable to sleep at night, wondering how to put food on the table. It is shameful. So it is clear we have a moral as well as practical case for new legislation.

The government says fire and rehire should not be happening. Jacob Rees-Mogg has described it as “wrong” and “bad practice”, while business minister Paul Scully has branded it as “bully-boy tactics”. But they are not prepared to legislate to stop it. They say they will issue expanded guidelines. But the companies who are doing this don’t need more guidelines, they know what they are doing is wrong and they will keep on doing it unless someone stops them. That is why legislation is needed.

Despite the government’s reluctance to pass primary legislation Barry’s bill already has support from more than 100 MPs from every party in the House of Commons – including a growing number of Conservative MPs.

I would ask members to show solidarity with other workers and support Barry’s bill. Visit the website (https://www.stopfireandrehire.org/), and write to your MP.

I’m delighted to support this campaign. We must be aware of the threat of fire and rehire and campaign to stop it.

Source URL: https://www.pcs.org.uk/news-events/blogs/government-must-legislate-against-fire-rehire-uks-new-industrial-disease