Sunderland City Council demands Boris Johnson brings an ‘end to fire and rehire tactics’

Councillors on Wearside have joined forces in calling for an end to ‘fire and rehire’ tactics used by employers.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 6:59 pm
Sunderland City Council demands Boris Johnson brings an ‘end to fire and rehire tactics’
Sunderland City Council demands Boris Johnson brings an ‘end to fire and rehire tactics’

Sunderland City Council’s Labour group tabled a debate looking at the practice, which involves staff being sacked and rehired under worse terms and conditions.

This leaves many having to work longer hours for lower pay, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the practice “unacceptable.”

In a motion presented at Wednesday’s (June 23) full council meeting, Labour bosses said the Prime Minister had “refused to take action to outlaw the practice.”

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This included concerns he would not intervene in a “race to the bottom” by some employers around the treatment of workers post-Brexit.

In response, the council motion called for the council’s leader to write to the PM “demanding he act now and keep his promise to local residents to protect their employment terms and conditions.”

It also aimed to promote Real Living Wage employers and to develop a ‘local employer charter’ for Sunderland companies to work towards.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said fire and hire was not a new practice but had “gained prominence” recently because of the conduct of several major employers such as British Gas, British Airways and Heathrow Airport.

He added: “If this government is serious about levelling up and raising standards, they must commit to ending fire and rehire once and for all.

“Fire and rehire as a practice must not be allowed to continue.

“Workers should not be forced to choose between losing pay or losing their jobs and Parliament must act urgently to outlaw this form of industrial blackmail.”

While welcoming the motion, several opposition councillors suggested that the city council should “get its own house in order” before approaching other employers in the city.

Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Haswell claimed some of the council’s partner organisations had previously engaged in fire and rehire practices.

Meanwhile, Conservative councillor Dominic McDonough said hundreds of people employed by the city council were on so-called ‘variable hour contracts’ – which had previously been criticised by UNISON.

Cllr McDonough said that the union had called for the abolition of the contract types, which provide no guarantee of earned income while having the potential to increase victimisation of workers by withholding hours.

But city leaders were quick to defend the council’s record, noting that Sunderland was the first local authority in the North East to be accredited as a Real Living Wage employer.

Councillors heard that leaders were also working with employers towards a goal of making Sunderland a ‘Real Living Wage city.’

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of the council, said the Conservatives had refused to work with the national Labour Party in Parliament to outlaw fire and rehire tactics.

Responding to critics at this week’s council meeting, he added: “Compared to the government, this council is so in order.”

The Labour group’s motion was eventually agreed with a unanimous vote.

The motion reads:

This council notes the increased use by employers in the UK of fire and rehire tactics, forcing their staff to accept worse terms/conditions, leaving many having to work longer hours and for lower pay.

That while the Prime Minister has called the practice “unacceptable” he has continually refused to take action to outlaw the practice, raising concerns that he will not intervene in this race to the bottom by some employers.

This council therefore believes actions are required to ensure local residents are protected against such unscrupulous employers and agrees to:

Ask the leader of the council to write to the Prime Minister demanding he act now and keep his promise to local residents to protect their employment terms and conditions.

Promote the increasing number of progressive local employers prioritising their employees wellbeing by becoming a REAL living wage employer.

Work with our anchor institutions and key partners to bring forward plans for the introduction of a local employer charter for companies to work toward with Trade Union rights, support for the TUC great jobs agenda and paying the REAL living wage at its heart.