THE TRADES UNION CONGRESS (TUC) has warned that the controversial practice of ‘fire and re-hire’ has become widespread during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A new poll published by the union body reveals that nearly one in ten (nine per cent) workers have been told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since the first lockdown in March. The picture is even bleaker for BME and young workers and working-class people:

  • Nearly a fifth of (18 per cent) of 18-24 year-olds say their employer has tried to re-hire them on inferior terms during the pandemic.
  • Working-class people (12 per cent) are nearly twice as likely than those from higher socio-economic groups (seven per cent) to have been told to re-apply for their jobs under worse terms and conditions.
  • BME workers (15 per cent) have been faced with ‘fire and rehire’ at nearly twice the rate of white workers (eight per cent)

The TUC says fire and re-hire tactics are being used across a range of industries.

Members of the GMB union are currently taking strike action against British Gas after the company ordered staff to accept inferior contracts, and Unite are taking industrial action against British Airways over the airline’s decision to fire and rehire its cargo division’s workforce on inferior pay and conditions.

The polling also reveals that nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of workers in Britain have experienced a downgrading of their terms during the crisis – including through reduced pay or changes to their hours.

One in three (34 per cent) young workers (18-24 year-olds) say their terms at work have deteriorated since March. And a nearly a third (30 per cent) of low-paid workers (those earning up to £15,000) report the same.

Around two-fifths (38 per cent) of workers say they are worried about job security in the year ahead.

The government promised in 2019 that it would bring forward a new employment bill to improve people’s rights at work. But there has been no sign of the legislation.  The TUC says that improving workers’ rights and pay is a key test of Boris Johnson’s much vaunted ‘levelling up agenda’.  The union body says any move to water down EU-derived protections on safe working hours, rest-breaks would be a betrayal of that promise.

A separate TUC poll – published straight after the 2019 general election – revealed that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of voters think the government must protect and enhance workplace rights previously guaranteed by the EU..

This call was supported by two-thirds (65 per cent) of people who voted Conservative in 2019, and by eight in 10 (79 per cent) of those who switched from Labour to the Conservatives.

TUC General Secretary  Frances O’Grady said:  “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work. Forcing people to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions is plain wrong.  Fire and re-hire 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. That means fast-tracking his much-delayed employment bill. And it means abandoning any attempt to water down hard-won workers’ rights from the EU.”

* Source: Trades Union Congress