Unfortunately, owing to time constraints, I was not called to speak in this evening’s debate on employment rights. Had I been called, I would have argued for the abhorrent practice of fire and rehire to be outlawed once and for all:
“The fact that we are debating a motion on the outlawing of abhorrent employment practices on Opposition time – almost a year into the pandemic – speaks volumes about this Government’s attitudes to workers’ rights.
The last ten months have seen repeated and sustained attempts by CEOs and large corporations to take advantage of the pandemic, and prey on people’s vulnerabilities by essentially bullying them into accepting lesser contracts and lower pay.
We’ve seen the abhorrent practice of fire and rehire wielded by the likes of British Airways, British Gas, and Heathrow Airport to name a few.
The bottom line is all that counts for these companies. As consumers, we can fight to protect workers rights. Vote with your feet, change providers and reject that brands that have used a pandemic to destroy workers rights, with the support of the party opposite.
Research by The Trade Union Congress found that nearly one in 10 workers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since the first lockdown in March.
Over ten years in government, and workers have fewer rights, and are less safe in the workplace than a decade ago.
Today, British workers are facing the threat that hard-won rights and protections like the 48-hour work week, health and safety, rest breaks, and holiday pay are at risk by this Government following the UK’s departure from the EU.
I would like to pay tribute to my own union, Unite, in their successes over the course of the last few months in working ceaselessly to defend the rights of members who are at the mercy of these employers.
BA cargo staff have recently called off the first three days of their strike after progress with negotiations between their union and their employer, who has attempted to fire and rehire over 800 workers, stripping them of between £6,000 and £8,000 a year.
However, the struggle is ongoing elsewhere at Heathrow. The increasingly bitter dispute over the firing and rehiring of the entire 4,000-strong workforce on vastly inferior contracts, resulting in pay cuts of up to 25 per cent, or £8,000 a year, rages on.
The workforce took four days of strike action last December and have now announced that they will take strike action on Friday 5 February. Unite members recorded an 84 per cent yes vote for strike action and the targeted action will involve: firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations, landside and airside operations, who will all be striking at different times on this date.
The company has dismissed the concerns raised by Unite about the airport’s contingency plans during this industrial action and the potential risk to Heathrow passengers and staff.
Fire and rehire is not a new phenomenon. Make no mistake, it will continue if it is not outlawed once and for all.
The Government must unequivocally condemn this disgraceful practice, and commit to protect employment rights.
The Conservative Party have one question to answer – Whose side are you on?
Workers under-attack, or businesses that use a national public health crisis to cut pay, terms and conditions?
It is decision time Mr Speaker, I know who I stand with.”