The union’s new general secretary said firms’ move to cutback of pay and conditions amid Covid “one of the scandals of our age”
Fire and rehire tactics to cut pay and conditions amid the Covid pandemic are “an abhorrence”, the new general secretary of Unite has said.
Speaking at the TUC conference, Sharon Graham called the practice – which sees firms make workers redundant, only for them to offer a new contract on worse pay and conditions – “one of the scandals of our age.
She said one in 10 workers were being affected by fire and rehire, and the practice must be outlawed.
Go North West and British Gas are among the firms who have clashed with unions over fire and rehire.
But reports suggest nearly 70% of companies accused of launching fire-and-rehire assaults on workers’ wages and conditions have been making a profit and half have claimed government Covid support.
“Let’s remember what fire and rehire actually is – workers wake up one morning and have 45 days to accept an ultimatum from the employer which involves slashed wages and terms and conditions. If the new terms are not accepted, it means the sack. Very often there is no warning,” said Ms Graham.
“This could mean workers losing their homes and their families and children being forced to move away from family, friends and neighbourhood networks, to seek work elsewhere.
“Many of the firms employing this tactic are not doing so out of necessity, they are doing it because they can.
“They’ve thought ‘now is the time’.
“Fire and rehire is fast moving from opportunism to standard practice.”
Ms Graham, who emerged as the surprise winner in the Unite race for general secretary, said she was elected on a mandate for change, to refocus Unite on jobs, pay and conditions.
“Not to step away from the political arena, but to make building power at work our number one priority so that we can then move the politics from the grassroots up,” she said.
“With Labour in opposition and a government reluctant to act, our response must now be industrial.
“Our priority must be to co-ordinate a fightback at the workplace.”
The Unite leader will say that depending on the circumstances, strike action might not be enough, adding: “That is why we need to share resources and strategies, so that together we can deliver campaigns and give all our members the best chance of winning.
“That must start with real co-ordination – not just words but practical action.”