FIRE-and-rehire tactics used by shameless bosses to drive down wages and conditions under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic must be banned, the TUC says.
Nearly 10 per cent of workers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions or face the sack, and a quarter have already seen their pay or hours downgraded since the first lockdown, a shocking TUC poll published today reveals.
For young, black and minority-ethnic workers the picture is even worse, with 18 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 15 per cent of black workers reporting that their bosses had tried to rehire them on worse terms.
High-profile disputes in the gas industry, where 7,000 service engineers have told British Gas that they will not accept worse pay and conditions, and at Heathrow, where airport staff are also striking against the tactic, have underlined the importance of unions in pushing back against the practice.
But unorganised workers face the grim reality of “take it or leave it,” and the TUC poll shows that 24 per cent of workers in Britain have seen their pay or hours cut during the Covid-19 crisis, with a third of young workers — 34 per cent — reporting that their terms have already worsened since March.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work. Forcing people to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions is plain wrong.
“Fire and rehire tactics have no place in modern Britain and must be outlawed.
“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.”
The GMB union yesterday revealed that three quarters of British Gas customers support its strike against the fire and rehire of 7,000 engineers.
In a Survation poll, 76 per cent said that any savings should first come from reducing senior managers’ salaries or shareholder dividends.
“Like most of the wider public and politicians, British Gas customers are opposed to this hated fire and rehire policy,” said GMB national secretary Justin Bowden.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “There is growing evidence in the transport, shipping and offshore industries of companies looking to exploit the pandemic to hammer down on pay, pensions and conditions through the use of fire & rehire.
“We need a national co-ordinated response across the trade-union movement to stop this scandal in its tracks.”
Institute of Employment Rights director Carolyn Jones condemned what she described as “a blatant abuse of the law” and said that the institute would be drafting amendments to the long-awaited Employment Bill.
“Fire and rehire is a disgrace that underlines the importance of trade-union membership because, ultimately, workers need to rely on the power of their own organisation to defend their hard-won rights and terms,” she said.
A Business Department spokesman said: “While we recognise the impact Covid-19 has had on businesses means that changes to contract terms may be necessary in certain circumstances, using fire and rehire tactics is completely unacceptable.
“We expect companies to treat their employees fairly and employers should meet with affected employees or union representatives to explain their case for changing contracts.
“We have asked [arbitration service] Acas to look into how fire and rehire tactics have been used and they are currently gathering evidence on the issue from business and employee representatives.”