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Starmer calls for end to ‘levelling down of workers’ rights’ at GMB conference

FIRE and rehire is a “shocking way to repay the sacrifices of working people,” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said on Monday, as he attacked the levelling down of workers’ rights.

Addressing the GMB union’s online annual conference, Sir Keir said Labour would outlaw the widely used tactic whereby workers are forced to reapply for their jobs on worse pay, terms and conditions.

A TUC report in January estimated that fire and rehire had been used against nearly one in 10 workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, with higher rates among young and BAME workers.

Despite Tory Business Minister Paul Scully labelling the practice “bully-boy tactics,” ministers are yet to publish February’s report from the arbitration service Acas into the tactic or announce moves to legislate against it.  

Sir Keir, in a pre-recorded speech after internet connection problems delayed him delivering his address live, said: “This levelling-down of our economy, of workers’ rights, can’t continue.

“After everything the British people have been through in the last year, we can’t go back to business as usual, back to where we started, and try to patch it up. We can’t continue to slide towards a low-rights, low-pay economy.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “Fire and rehire is completely unacceptable, and we expect companies to treat their employees fairly.

“Acas has completed their work and shared their insights with BEIS officials. It is right that we take the time to consider this evidence fully and we will communicate next steps shortly.”

During his speech, Sir Keir also congratulated Gary Smith on his election as GMB general secretary last week.

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