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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Fire-and-Rehire

by New Worker correspondent

Despite the Prime Minister denouncing the practice of bosses threatening to fire and then rehire workers unless they accept cuts in pay and conditions, there have been many such disputes. A Labour Bill to outlaw the practice was ‘talked out’ in a Commons debate.

One of the largest was at British Gas, where the highly profitable company sought to sack all its workers and rehire them at lower rates. After 44 days of strike action by 7,000 engineers, their union, GMB, were effectively defeated in April when the final deal was accepted by 75.5 to 24.5 per cent, with nearly 500 workers dismissed.

Airports, particularly Heathrow, were another major battleground where both directly employed and outsourced workers faced losing a quarter of their already low pay. Rail unions are also facing long-term staff cuts due to the reduction in commuter traffic.

Bus drivers have also faced many fire-and-rehire disputes, but this had the side effect of persuading many drivers to depart for the higher wages being offered (for the time at least) in the road haulage industry.

Manchester was the scene of a long-running battle when Go North West sought to impose wage cuts of about £2,500 of their £24,000 salaries, along with attacks on the sick pay scheme just at the time it was most needed. In London one bus company attempted unsuccessfully to introduce zero-hours contracts. There was some criticism of Unite, which represents most bus workers, that they could have done more to wage a united campaign, rather than fight many isolated battles.

Amongst similar ongoing battles are those involving workers at Jacobs Douwe Egbert’s coffee plant at Banbury in Oxfordshire, which came to a rather unsatisfactory conclusion in July. In another food-related dispute, Weetabix workers continue to struggle on for the same reason.

Most of the companies attempting to cut wages are not in such dire straits as they claim to be, having huge reserves and also receiving huge sums from the Government’s furlough scheme – which went on boosting dividends.