Firing staff only to rehire them with worse pay and employment conditions should be banned, according to a new poll suggesting the public supports a legal ban on the practice.
As unions call on ministers to take action against ‘fire and rehire’ in the Queen’s upcoming speech, a Survation poll for the GMB union found that 76% of those polled said it should be against the law. The figure included 71% of Conservative voters. Two-thirds of those surveyed (67%) suggested they would be less likely to purchase goods or services from a business that used fire and would rehire.
The demands for action come after hundreds of British Gas engineers, who install and repair boilers and heating systems, were sacked last month after refusing to agree to new terms that left them with a cut salary and longer hours.
Engineers had two weeks to change their minds and sign new deals, which included longer hours, as well as weekend and holiday shifts. While some signed up at the last minute, hundreds were left without a job.
Although the “fire and rehire” program is legal, it has infuriated employees and also led to anger in Westminster. Boris Johnson called the practice “unacceptable”, but ministers also insisted that financially troubled companies must have the flexibility to offer new terms. A Observer Analysis of companies accused of deploying the tactic this year found that nine of 13 private employers were successful in maintaining healthy profit margins.
The GMB union is now calling for a ban on the practice to be included in the much delayed employment bill, which will be announced in the Queen’s Speech. Warren Kenny, acting GMB general secretary, said: “Fire and rehiring is a dirty and intimidating tactic used by unscrupulous bosses. It has no place in the modern working world – and the public knows it.
‘We have been waiting since the government was elected in 2019 for ministers to present their promised jobs bill, which they say would make the UK the best place in the world to work. Enough is enough. “
British Gas owner Centrica had declared its lowest earnings on record earlier this year. He said at the time of the fire and rehire policy: “While change is difficult, reversing our decline – which has seen us lose over 3 million customers, cut over 15,000 jobs and cut jobs in half. profits over the past 10 years – is necessary. “