Labour has warned the Prime Minister he is “selling out” working people by not supporting moves to outlaw so-called “fire and rehire” which has sparked a series of industrial disputes in recent months.
The Opposition and trade unions are urging MPs to support a Private Member’s Bill being discussed in the Commons on Friday which would outlaw the practice.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of “saying one thing and doing another” by calling fire and rehire “unacceptable” but then instructing his MPs to vote down the Bill.
Sir Keir, speaking ahead of the debate, said: “The Prime Minister has himself described fire and rehire as unacceptable so I urge him to stand by his own words, stop selling out working people and join Labour MPs today to outlaw this despicable practice.
“Fire and rehire is an appalling tactic to get around the law and cheat working people out of the pay and conditions that they have earned through their hard work.
“Whether it is supporting fire and rehire, hiking their taxes or cutting their Universal Credit, Conservative ministers are making working people pay the price for the Government’s failures.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity at work, but bad bosses are cynically exploiting the coronavirus crisis to drive down workers’ pay and conditions.
“Fire and rehire should have no place in modern Britain. MPs of all parties should support this Bill.”
Andy Prendergast, national officer of the GMB union, said: “Fire and rehire has been challenged by politicians from across the political spectrum, including many ministers in this Government.
“This is an ideal opportunity to provide workers with the protections they so badly need.
“The Conservative Government have said they want to ‘level up’ the UK and make us the best place in the world to work, claims which will be exposed if their MPs vote against a Bill which does exactly that.”
The Private Member’s Bill, being taken forward by Labour MP Barry Gardiner, has its second reading on Friday.
A Government spokesperson said: “We are absolutely clear that using fire and rehire as a negotiating tactic is completely unacceptable, and we expect companies to treat their employees fairly.
“While we do not believe that we should legislate to stop the practice, the Government is taking action and has asked Acas to produce more comprehensive, clearer guidance to help all employers explore all the options before considering ‘fire and rehire’.
“Existing laws protect employees by ensuring there is fair procedure in redundancy and dismissal matters. If an employer needs to make changes to an employee’s contract, they must reach a formal agreement with that worker or their representatives.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “’Fire and rehire’ is an abhorrence.
“It should have no place in a decent society.
“MPs now have a chance on Friday to outlaw this appalling bully boy practice which is a new attack on workers’ wages and conditions.
“Workers want action, not more empty words.
“The Prime Minister has talked a good game on this issue.
“Now it is time for him to step up, to act and show workers that he means what he says.”
Mr Gardiner said: “MPs from every political party and every corner of the country are saying that Fire and Rehire is wrong.
“Bullying and intimidation is not the way forward if we want decent employment and a productive economy.
“My colleagues in Parliament have a chance to stand up and stop the bullying.”