Boris Johnson has been challenged to back legislation that would make it illegal for firms to sack staff and re-employ them on lower pay.

A Labour MP will this week table a private member’s bill at Westminster which would ban exploitative “fire and rehire” tactics.

Glasgow-born Barry Gardiner is the driving force behind the legislation, which is backed by trade unions and is expected to receive support from the SNP and Lib Dems.

It comes as distribution staff employed by shoe sellers Clarks walked out last week in a dispute over new terms and conditions being imposed on them.

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Unions claim the cut in pay is being targeted at the longest-serving members of staff who were on the books before Hong Kong based private equity firm Lionrock became the majority shareholder in the business earlier this year.

Gardiner says his Bill would not ban companies being able to restructure if they are in financial trouble but would prevent profitable firms from using firing and rehiring as a tactic to lower wages.

He said: “Most people are amazed when they find out it’s legal for an employer to tell staff they are going to reduce their wage and change their shift patterns – and if they don’t sign a new contract, they’ll lose their jobs. The law of the land says employers are entitled to do this. We have to stop them using this as a tactic of beating down wages.

“Managers are often receiving bonuses for doing this and helping companies make profits.

“Many of these firms are not even in difficulty – it’s all about increasing dividends for shareholders. It’s a way of siphoning money away from the poorest people in our country to the richest.”

Gardiner said the likely refusal of Tory MPs to back his bill would make a mockery of the Prime Minister’s repeated claims to be “levelling up” the UK.

And he pointed to the recent dispute involving British Gas as an example of how hire and fire policies could have unintended consequences.

He added: “What I’ve found is businesses don’t benefit from this long term.

“What happened with British Gas dragged on for months and months and at the end of the day they had to negotiate a settlement that no one was particularly happy about.

“The result was British Gas lost between £30million and £40million in lost productivity. And workers who left, in many cases, have gone on to found their own small companies to do the work themselves they used to do for British Gas.

“At every level, it’s a bad idea.”

British Gas said its policy was necessary to “reverse the decline” of the company.

Tory MP Paul Scully has said the UK Government “will tackle” fire and rehire, which he condemned as “bully-boy tactics”, but has failed to bring forward a law to stop it.

The Community trade union representing Clarks workers said its members had been left with “no choice” but to walk out.

Clarks said: “We did not undertake this lightly but the proposals are part of a company-wide plan to secure future viability, with a view to protecting over 4000 UK jobs.”