The Workers Union has issued a warning to company chiefs, telling them: ‘It’s time to end fire and rehire.’
In a statement released this morning, a spokesperson for the organisation said: ‘Fire and rehire is a shameful practice that companies use to secure a better deal for themselves at the expense of loyal workers. In recent weeks we have seen it play out in the P&O Ferries debacle, while other well-known businesses such as Royal Mail are also in the news for the same reason. Let’s call this out for what it is – a way of re-engineering the pay, benefits and status of workers without due consultation and proper process. It is a stain on the working landscape of this country that needs to end, immediately.’
The statement came after the government said that it would introduce a new statutory code to ‘prevent unscrupulous employers using fire and rehire tactics.’
In a press release accompanying the announcement, Labour Markets minister Paul Scully said:
‘P&O Ferries’ actions were not a case of fire and rehire – just fire. However, the way the company acted in not consulting employees before taking extreme measures was appalling. This has laid bare the measures some deceitful employers are prepared to take to exploit and break the law. That is why we are producing a new code to tighten the screw on unscrupulous employers, who must comply with a new statutory code on tougher employment rules – including fire and rehire.
‘We expect companies to treat their employees fairly – and whilst the vast majority comply with the law – today we are going further to stand up for workers against those that flagrantly disregard it.’
Data on the number of cases of fire and rehire since the beginning of the pandemic remains scarce, but statistics published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that between March 2020 and July 2021, 3 percent of the 2,000 employers it polled had used fire and rehire tactics to dismiss staff and reemploy them on new terms and conditions. CIPD went on to point out that 3 percent is the equivalent of 42,960 employers UK business-wide.
The Workers Union Says…
Fire and rehire is the worst face of corporate Britain. Unmasked in times of plenty as well as times of turbulence, it rots the foundations of the unspoken arrangement between employer and employed, an arrangement that simply acknowledges that mutually beneficial, trustworthy relationships lead to happier, more motivated staff.
The tide of the 21st century is against firms that use this ruthless practice. The citizen journalist worker, armed with their camera and a sense of justice unfulfilled, can instantly alert the press to mass sackings. Meanwhile, the government, keen to escape the shadow of EU mandated employment law, has shown itself to be prepared to respond quickly and decisively to egregious corporate behaviour. And mass media coverage of crinkle-necked security staff ‘escorting’ workers off the premises takes seconds to smash the carefully-worded PR that inevitably accompanies such incidents.
So we say to companies contemplating fire and rehire tactics: think very carefully about what you’re doing. Not only does it lack moral fibre, it also damages the reputation of UK plc by reinforcing the erroneous idea that workers are merely wheel cranks that can be replaced without any loss of service or reputation.