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Fire and rehire in 2021

Tue 9 Nov 2021

By Lisa Robillard Webb

Maybe I am not alone to feel shock that something so archaic as ‘fire and rehire’ exists in 2021.  As we progress onwards into this century, sacking your employees and then rehiring them on worse conditions seems a bit Dickensian.  But it’s still a tool in the armoury of certain employers.  With the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, a quarter of all workers have been affected by poorer work conditions. The Conservatives have facilitated certain employers to diminish their workers’ pay, terms, conditions and pensions by engendering limited employment protections and shackling the trade unions.

This could sound like another political argument, but I am mindful that behind every statistic there is an individual or family devastated by a lack of financial security.  We are all feeling the strain of increased food, fuel and energy prices and therefore for many of us, the loss of a job or a lowered income would be keenly felt.  But from a wider perspective, society is always improved by having a workforce with a secure job and regular income.  Most workers in the UK, spend most of their money within the country within a short period of time ie it is recycled back into our local and national economies.  The wealthier tend to have the means to spend their money abroad or in a way that loses it to our economy entirely.

Belonging to a trade union can be an important step to moving towards better health and safety at work along with other vital working conditions.  Before Covid-19, 3.8 million workers (or 1 in 9) had very little rights at work and suffered the anxiety of a potential sudden dismissal (eg misplaced self-employment, agency work or zero hours).  The UK does not compare favourably to our neighbours in Europe, we have the longest hours, poor holiday entitlement and suffer from high levels of stress.  To many, it may surprise them that average pay is lower than before the financial crash.

Choosing ‘fire and rehire’ as a way to run a business is a poor indictment on a company’s approach to success in business. Effectively blackmailing employees to accept intensified work and hours along with lower pay has no place in our society. People are entitled to secure work and earnings. In government, Labour would ban ‘fire and rehire’ along with strengthening individual employment rights. We would also support working people in dispute fighting employers using ‘fire and rehire’ and other similar methods.

I am often surprised at people’s memories of trade unions, in 2021, most trade unions are forward thinking and people-centred.  I am a member of Unite Community and I have found them to be very supportive to myself and others.  I have recently started completely free training through Unite on a range of subjects.  I have benefitted throughout my career by the sectoral collective bargaining. Repealing the anti trade union laws would give millions of workers greater access to security and sustainable pay increases.

Our workers are simply looking to receive fair rewards for the profits and wealth they create. With an increased statutory minimum wage, raising the statutory sick pay (SSP) to a living wage (paid from day one) and banning the Lower Earnings Limits (restricting many workers from SSP), abolition of zero-hours contracts, Labour would focus their efforts to back our workers, not hinder them. Labour has committed to the benefits of a better work-life balance, a legal right to flexible working by default, a ‘right to switch off’ so that homes don’t become 24/7 offices, and reductions in working hours without loss of pay.

Labour is not just offering a tick-list of support for workers.  But having spoken with a number of unions recently along with many members, I can see that a primary driver for our endeavours is to create a better and fair living standard for all.  We all benefit from this in our communities.  I see the hours of care and concerns within Labour on these matters. It certainly contrasts to the ‘shop-front’ mirage of our Government’s offering. After all, it is only ever action that will create a better change for our workers and their families’ lives.

Other columns by Lisa Robillard Webb

Bovey Paradiso – Another Jewel in the Bovey Crown - Mon 2 Aug 2021
Rethinking Social Care - Mon 14 Jun 2021
Hard Times – Exams and Education in Covid-19 Chaos - Mon 1 Mar 2021
The Devon Guild of Craftsmen – A True Gift to Bovey - Thu 1 Oct 2020
Black Lives Matter - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere - Tue 7 Jul 2020
Central Devon – A beautiful place to fight for - Tue 11 Feb 2020
South Dartmoor Community College - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Our Local Post Offices - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Political Choice - Fri 3 May 2019
High Streets – At the centre of our communities - Thu 24 Jan 2019
The Shame of UK’s Indefinite Detention - Thu 8 Nov 2018

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