Press release

MP calls for end to fire and rehire at Leeds event

Date: 19.10.21 | in: Employment | Tags:

Alex Sobel has called for an end to Fire and Rehire, and other exploitative work tactics at an event in Leeds on Friday.

The MP for Leeds North West described some of the conversations with constituents during the pandemic as ‘heart-braking’ as he detailed instances of people losing their jobs. Alex was joined at the event by all the Leeds Labour MPs including Hilary Benn, Rachel Reeves, Richard Burgon and Fabian Hamilton. Also in attendance was Mayor Tracy Brabin and Barry Gardiner MP.

In a speech at the event Alex said “there are businesses, well known businesses, that when push came to shove made the wrong choice. Instead of supporting staff onto furlough, instead of making sure that their dedicated employees had a job to come back to, they took the easy option. They chose to lay off their staff.

Now imagine this for a second. You have given your Labour, your time and energy, to an organisation for years. A global pandemic hits and throws the UK into both a health crisis and an economic crisis. You are worried about your family. Is my mum going to be OK on her own? Am I going to catch Covid and be hospitalised? Is that pre-existing condition going to make me vulnerable? The last thing that you expect, the last thing that you expect, is for your employer to leave you out of work and onto Universal Credit. Can you just imagine the anxiety, the fear and the economic harm that this would cause you? Speaking to these constituents was heart breaking. I begged this establishment to reconsider. Their Trade Union begged the establishment to reconsider.But they said no – we are struggling financially, and we are acting within the law.”

Ends

Notes for Editors

Full speech:

Friends, thank you for being here. Thank you for standing up for what is right and for our workers. This is a fight not just against this attack on our rights at work but on every attack on our rights at work.  Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about some kind of exploitation in workplaces, whether it is our young people, doing trial shift after trial shift or zero hour contracted workers, not knowing whether they will be able to work that week.

Lockdown has tested us all. It has tested our resilience, our mental, physical, and emotional health. It has tested our economy and it has tested our businesses. But Covid has also laid bare the cracks in our system. There are businesses, well known businesses, that when push came to shove made the wrong choice. Instead of supporting staff onto furlough, instead of making sure that their dedicated employees had a job to come back to, they took the easy option. They chose to lay off their staff.

Now imagine this for a second. You have given your Labour, your time and energy, to an organisation for years. A global pandemic hits and throws the UK into both a health crisis and an economic crisis. You are worried about your family. Is my mum going to be OK on her own? Am I going to catch Covid and be hospitalised? Is that pre-existing condition going to make me vulnerable? The last thing that you expect, the last thing that you expect, is for your employer to leave you out of work and onto Universal Credit. Can you just imagine the anxiety, the fear and the economic harm that this would cause you? Speaking to these constituents was heart breaking. I begged this establishment to reconsider. Their Trade Union begged the establishment to reconsider. But they said no – we are struggling financially, and we are acting within the law.

We are acting within the law.

I have heard from constituents of mine, long serving staff of British Gas Centrica and British Airways who have suddenly found themselves in negotiations with their employers who are playing with a loaded dice. I ask this – how can you have a fair negotiation over your pay when your company has the freedom to sack you? How can you have a fair negotiation over your working hours when your company has the freedom to sack you? Many have faced terms that have seriously impacted their lives. At Centrica, the working week has been made longer by 3 hours. There is a new rota system which means, with 6 weeks’ notice, shifts can be changed to any time between 7am and 9pm, 7 days a week, including bank holidays. Imagine how that would affect your life. Imagine how that would affect the life of a working parent or someone with caring responsibilities. They can do this because fire and rehire is legal.

They are acting within the law.

But together we can change it. In Parliament my colleagues and I are working day and night for the repeal of fire and rehire. But this work has started with you. Workers on the ground uniting and saying No. In a ballot of Centrica field workers, unionised through the GMB, the answer to the terms and conditions as set was loud and clear. The workers said No. The union put out a consultative ballot where 86% of field workers turned out and 86% said no to the terms offered to them by Centrica. Hundreds of British Gas workers have refused the new contracts, despite the pain and suffering this will cause them and their families in the months before Christmas. It is these workers who have drawn a line in the sand. It is these workers that are saying no, not just to the contacts that they have been offered, but to a system that allows a company to bully its staff into working for pay and conditions that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. These workers are heroes, and we should take a moment to thank them.

And what side is the Prime Minister on? What side is the Chancellor on? As British Gas and Centrica are imposing terms on their engineers, Boris Johnson and Richie Sunak are posing for pictures wearing British Gas Branded Jackets.

This is what we are up against. This is the fight and this fight will be hard. But as the old protest song goes ‘the people united will never be defeated.’ We will lose battles, but we will win this war. We will chuck out fire and rehire, and you know what? We will chuck out the Tories with it.

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