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Prime Minister’s ‘pathetic’ response to fire and rehire gives bad bosses carte blanche to use the ‘cruel’ tactic, unions say

PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson’s “pathetic” response to the fire and rehire threat gives bad bosses carte blanche to use the cruel tactic, unions have warned.  

Responding to a parliamentary question on the practice, which forces workers to accept worse pay, terms and conditions, the PM said today that it should only be used in limited circumstances as a last resort.

But GMB demanded that Mr Johnson finally act to ban fire and rehire — a tactic used against one in 10 workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the TUC. 

New GMB general secretary Gary Smith said: “The Prime Minister’s pathetic response will give bad bosses carte blanche to use this cruel and archaic practice whenever they see fit.

“Thousands of workers have had their lives ruined by fire-and-rehire bullying. There’s no levelling-up for workers’ rights here.

“This is a pivotal moment for our Covid recovery in terms of how we value our workers. Outlawing fire and rehire would be a good start.”

This comes as both GMB and Unite stress the fight against the tactic is gaining ground across Britain.

GMB said today that Barry Town council, the local authority for Wales’s largest town, could face strike action after issuing fire-and-rehire notices to six cemetery staff, imposing a unilateral change to working terms and conditions without their consent.

The union said that the council had withdrawn from talks with conciliation service Acas over the future of the Merthyr Dyfan employees, meaning that walkouts were possible.

GMB regional organiser Nicola Savage called on the council, which was contacted for comment, to “stop digging a hole” and return to the negotiating table.

A Barry Town Council spokesperson categorically denied that there was ever any intention to fire and rehire staff, claiming it only intended to make a minor variation to worker's terms and conditions with no reduction in hours or pay.

Meanwhile, Weetabix engineers will strike later this month in a further fire and rehire dispute which could see them facing pay cuts of up to £5,000 a year, Unite confirmed today.

The workers, based at the breakfast cereal company’s factory in Northamptonshire, voted to strike last week after also warning of health and safety concerns, the union said, as it blasted the profitable US-owned firm’s “greed and not need” approach.

Staff will walk out on Wednesday, June 23, and then on every Wednesday until mid-September, with Unite warning that product shortages could result. 

A Weetabix spokesperson said that the company was disappointed by the ballot and would remain in close consultation with workers to keep products on supermarket shelves.


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