The Conservative's want to return to business as usual. That means low pay, insecure employment, zero-hours contracts, and a gig economy with few employment rights and no right of redress against rogue employers Grahame Morris MP
Grahame Morris MP

Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work
Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 12th May 2021.

The Government failed Britain’s workforce yesterday, with no mention of an employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech. I have read the briefing notes, including the section on living standards and the plan for jobs, but without an explicit employment Bill there is a major gap in the Queen’s Speech.

Clearly, we need a recovery plan from the covid-19 pandemic, and there must be change. It is uppermost in workers’ minds that furlough ends at the end of September, but once again we see the usual Conservative party response, wanting a return to business as usual. For many workers, that means low pay, insecure employment, zero-hours contracts or limited-hours contracts, and a gig economy with few employment rights and no right of redress against rogue or unscrupulous employers. Labour wants better jobs and a fair deal at work, but that cannot be achieved within the current balance of power, which is skewed so heavily against working people.

The Government have turned their back on workers’ rights in the package of Bills announced yesterday, but I hope that in the private Members’ Bill ballot, which is opening shortly, we have the opportunity to bring forward a Bill to ban the appalling and increasingly common practice of industrial blackmail that is fire and rehire. I declare an interest and thank my own trade union, Unite, and, indeed, all the other trade unions, for highlighting this appalling practice and doing all in their power to campaign to defend the wages, terms and conditions of working people. The Prime Minister will have received a letter from Unite the union signed by over 140 hon. and right hon. Members of this House, by peers and by 20 trade union leaders calling on him to outlaw the shameful practice of fire and rehire. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the letter has been met with stony silence.

To make matters worse, the Government are still refusing to release the publicly funded ACAS report on this practice. If I may, I want to take issue with the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s opening remarks. I am sure that he would not deliberately mislead the House, but he said quite clearly that Ministers were awaiting the report from ACAS. In fact, Ministers received the report on 17 February, so they are already in possession of it. I wonder what inconvenient truths lie in that report that are causing them not to publish it.

This issue needs immediate action. Ministers have allowed a situation to develop where one in 10 workers will be threatened with fire and rehire, with disputes ongoing at a number of companies and organisations, including Go North West, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Goodlord and Heathrow airport. Indeed, yesterday, the National Union of Journalists condemned an attempted case of fire and rehire at the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. The UK lags behind countries, including Ireland, Spain and France, that have already banned it. If a Government committed to protecting bad employers does not make people angry, people should know that many of the companies engaged in this practice have received large sums of public money. Some have seen profits increase substantially, yet this Government place no conditions on the support that they have received.

Many ordinary working people are suffering, so yesterday I was proud to join Unite members, representatives and officers, and Labour MPs to make it plain that we stand with working people. I am immensely proud to do so as a Labour and trade union MP.

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