Fire and rehire is an awful, but all too commonly occurring, practice. As the name suggests, it involves dismissing employees then rehiring them on reduced terms and conditions. It is a way for companies to cut costs and boost profits at the expenses of their workers and their communities.
It is something that has been condemned across the political spectrum. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset, recently said the tactics “shame businesses”. Keir Starmer has previously called for fire and rehire to be outlawed.
Yet the practice has become increasingly common since the pandemic, including at staples of the British economy like British Airways, Tesco, British Gas and Go North West. A study into fire-and-rehire by ACAS also found evidence of the practice at small- and medium-sized employers.
The most recent iconic British brand to engage in fire-and-rehire is Clarks, impacting over one-hundred employees at their Westway Distribution Centre in Street, Somerset. The reduction of terms and conditions was primarily targeted at legacy members of staff, who were employees before Lion Rock became majority shareholder in March 2021.
“It’s time that we end fire-and-rehire once and for all.”
The company pushed for their employees to accept far-reaching reduced conditions, with everything from a reduction in hourly wage, sick pay and annual holidays, to a removal of 10-minute coffee breaks and complimentary hot drinks.
Clarks has a history in Somerset dating back to 1825, when they were established by brothers Cyrus and James. Clarks stores went on to become a fixture on the British high street, currently having 460 UK stores and over 700 more around the world. To throw all that history away, and reward both their employees and their customers with fire-and-rehire, is a shameful end.
The government has said it has no plans to outlaw fire-and-rehire, but believe it should be used as a last resort not a negotiating tactic. That is simply not good enough. The TUC have calculated that one in ten workers (three million people) during the pandemic were threatened with the sack unless they accepted changes to their pay or conditions.
This has to be stopped. As we seek to build a better working world following the pandemic, it’s time that we end fire-and-rehire once and for all.
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