Following her PMQ in December 2020, Sharon once again called on the Government to use the upcoming Queen's Speech to ban fire and rehire practices.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mrs Murray. I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) on securing her first Westminster Hall debate on such an important subject and her excellent speech. It is also a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery).
I first raised fire and rehire with the Prime Minister on 16 December 2020 at Prime Minister’s Question Time, after highly skilled engineers at Centrica British Gas were told they had to sign new contracts before Christmas or else they would be fired and rehired in the new year on worse terms. The Prime Minister’s response was deeply concerning:
“it is also vital that we have a flexible economy that is able to generate jobs, particularly when we are going to go through a very difficult and bumpy time.”—[Official Report, 16 December 2020; Vol. 686, c. 272.]
During this “very difficult and bumpy time”, as the Prime Minister put it, is exactly when people need stability and certainty in their lives. Yet according to Unite the Union, one in 10 workers is already threatened with fire and rehire, and many more are likely to face this manipulative process as furlough comes to an end.
Earlier this month, I was saddened to see approximately 350 British Gas engineers lose their jobs because they refused to sign a contract with worse terms and pay. Equally sad is the thousands upon thousands of other GMB members at British Gas signing new but worse contracts under duress. Yet when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) raised it with the Prime Minister just last week, he was not even aware of the issue. Four months on from my question, hundreds have been sacked and the Prime Minister still does not have an answer.
It is not just British Gas engineers either; fire and rehire is also used by British Airways in Heathrow, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) will go into further detail on those disputes. Go North West drivers have been on strike for more than 50 days, while Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee producers is starting an indefinite overtime ban on International Workers Day, 1 May, and engineers at Brush Electrical Machines are balloting for action against pay cuts of up to £15,000.
Fire and rehire is an exploitative and illegitimate negotiation tactic that causes real hurt and anger. Household names have betrayed decades of trust from the nation. These tactics damage not only their workforces but their customer base, who will feel the same way at the disgraceful way those businesses treat their employees. The Government have an opportunity with the upcoming Queen’s Speech to work with Labour and the relevant trade unions such as Unite and the GMB to introduce vital legislation that will ban fire and rehire practices and give workers the stability and assurances that they need at this—again in the Prime Minister’s own words—“very difficult and bumpy time”.
Following her PMQ in December 2020, Sharon once again called on the Government to use the upcoming Queen's Speech to ban fire and rehire practices. You can read Sharon's speech below...
Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans, has today (Tuesday 20th April) hosted a virtual roundtable on veterans’ employment in the North East.
The roundtable, which was also attended by Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP, was the first of a series of events by the Labour Defence Team in the region.
The roundtable was also attended by Labour’s candidate in the Hartlepool by-election, Dr Paul Williams, local Labour Party Armed Forces Champions in the region and University of Sunderland and SHAID St Peter’s Court as recipients of the Gold Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
During the event, veterans and former clients of Project Nova* and Sporting Force spoke about their experiences of leaving the military and finding employment and training.
Participants in the roundtable heard about the impact Covid has had on the job market and how crucial charities have been, especially in the last year, in supporting veterans into training, employment, housing and getting mental health support.
It is estimated that 84% of service leavers who used the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) in 2019/20 were employed within six months of leaving the Armed Forces.
But the roundtable also heard that on some occasions it might be years after leaving the military before a veteran presents at a charity or local service for support on getting training or employment.
The Armed Forces Bill, which will put some of the Armed Forces Covenant into law, is making its way through Parliament.
The Bill will put commitments made in the Covenant on health, housing and education into law, but the Bill currently omits employment.
Labour is backing our veterans by calling on all remits of the Covenant to be put into law.
John Healey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence said:
“Our Forces Personnel go above and beyond to protect us and it is only right that when they leave service and transition back into civilian life, they are given the support they need. That is why we must reinforce the Armed Forces Covenant so no veteran is disadvantaged by their service.”
Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans said:
“Veterans’ employment is one of the key issues missing from the Government’s plan to put some of the Armed Forces Covenant into law.
“That’s why Labour is shining a light on how important veterans’ employment is not only to the veterans, but to the workplace too in the unique skills and experiences they offer.
”The Government should back Labour’s calls to put all aspects of the Armed Forces Covenant, including employment, into law via the Armed Forces Bill.”
Alistair Halliday, Chief Executive of RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity said:
“Regardless of age, years of service, rank or specialisation, people who have served in the Armed Forces possess fine qualities, such as self-motivation; a ‘can-do’ attitude, great team skills, a ready sense of humour, coupled with a desire to do their best and help others, which makes veterans a brilliant addition to the civilian workforce. However, those who have served in the Military often have limited experience of applying for civilian jobs and can find it difficult translating their relevant Services experience to meet non-Military job descriptions, putting them at a disadvantage. This event was an excellent opportunity to highlight the value and relevance of ex-Forces personnel to politicians and civilian employers alike.”
Tommy Lowther, Founder and CEO of Sporting Force said:
“It was a pleasure to join the Labour Party’s roundtable on veterans’ employment and showcase the work of Sporting Force here in the North East but also across the country.
“Veterans sometimes require additional support and Sporting Force offers that in abundance. We provide employment opportunities within the sports sector as well as lots of different adventure training activities to help tackle social isolation among the veteran community.”
Notes to editors
• *Project Nova, delivered in partnership between RFEA and Walking With The Wounded, is there to offer help to those who have been arrested and enter Police Custody. It also supports Veterans who are referred by specialist Police teams, or other statutory organisations, because they are at risk of arrest. The scheme was launched in 2014 and currently operates across South Yorkshire and Humberside, the North East, North West, Midlands, South West and East of England.
• About RFEA: RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity – exists to provide life-long, life-changing support, job opportunities, and training to service leavers, reservists, veterans and their families, irrespective of circumstances, rank, length of service, or reason for leaving. Founded in 1885 and operating across the UK, we have the specialist knowledge and understanding to bridge the gap between military life and civilian employment. We work in partnership with other organisations and employers who, like us, respect and value the unique qualities and abilities of all those who have served. www.rfea.org.uk; www.twitter.com/RFEA_UK; www.facebook.com/RFEATheForcesEmploymentCharity/
• About Sporting Force: Sporting Force provides support to ex-service personnel, offering a route into civilian employment within the professional sports industry. Sporting Force help veterans and their families by offering education, exercise and social events to help relieve mental health and social isolation. All the opportunities Sporting Force offer are inclusive and can be adapted to meet the needs of disabled veterans. https://www.sportingforce.org/; https://twitter.com/sportingforce; https://www.facebook.com/sportingforce
Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans, has today (Tuesday 20th April) hosted a virtual roundtable on veterans’ employment in the North East. The roundtable, which was also attended by...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2021 number 138
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2021 number 138
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2021 number 138 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Mar-Apr 2021 number 138 Read more
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
Disagreement is at the heart of human experience, just as the right to protest is at the heart of our democracy.
Sometimes disagreement is good; it can force a rethink, a compromise, a better outcome.
But the Government are eroding that right to disagree and protest.
Last week the Conservative Government brought the “Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill” before Parliament.
The best measures in the Bill come from campaigns by Labour MPs, such as my colleague Sarah Champion’s work on sexual abuse by people in positions of trust. But as the Government have made the Bill wide in scope, any opposition to some parts of the Bill – such as harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman – can be portrayed by the Conservatives as opposition to all parts of the Bill. This isn’t the case.
What is the case is the Government rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest.
The Bill hides, in its haystack of legislation, a very sharp needle – the criminalisation of protests that cause ‘serious annoyance’.
‘Serious annoyance’, like when the kettle trips the fuse and you have to turn the electricity back on.
Let’s put it in some perspective.
Did Sam Brown, one of the two hundred who marched from Jarrow to London in 1936 because they had no work, do enough to cause ‘serious annoyance’?
Should Brown’s peaceful request of a better future have found him behind bars?
Picture: Courtesy of South Tyneside Libraries >
The Government want to criminalise those who disagree with them because they cannot stand to be criticised.
But history links our national identity to the right to protest. The right has its roots in medieval Britain, from Magna Carta, and runs through the Peasants Revolt and the women’s suffrage movement.
I strongly condemn the violence against the police that we saw in Bristol over the weekend, but our right to peaceful protest must be preserved.
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website Disagreement is at the heart of human experience, just as the right to protest is at...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2021 number 137
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2021 number 137
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2021 number 137 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2021 number 137 Read more
You can view Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below, or on the Sunderland Echo website.
You would think that jobs for the boys would be a thing of the past, but the Conservative Party have gone one step further and used the Coronavirus pandemic as a business opportunity to further line the pockets of their mates.
The Conservative Government have handed out almost £2 billion worth of taxpayers money for Covid contracts to friends and donors.
The most baffling of all being the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock’s former neighbour and pub landlord, supplying the Government with Covid-19 test parts, despite having no previous medical experience. The firm is now being investigated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
The High Court ruled last month that the Health Secretary had acted unlawfully on transparency and failed to publish contracts on time.
But Matt Hancock has been quick to shrug this ruling off. Not only has he declared there was no foul play, he’s also tried to re-write history.
It isn’t even a year since we saw frontline workers on the news every day saying they were scared to go to work because they didn’t have the correct PPE. We saw images of our nurses and doctors using bin bags to protect themselves and issuing emotional pleas and warnings to the Government.
In response, the Government paid a pest control firm £59 million for 25 million facemasks, a hedge fund based in Mauritius £252 million for facemasks and paid a jeweller in Florida £70 million for gowns. None of these could be used.
Matt Hancock doesn’t remember that awful and desperate time and is keen that you forget about it too, but out of respect for our keyworkers on the frontline and the hundreds of NHS staff who died, we must ensure that we don’t forget or allow them to re-write history.
The Government must wind down its emergency procurement powers, reintroduce competitive tender and claw back the money on contracts that haven’t delivered.
In Government, Labour is committed to making the UK a world leader in transparency again by introducing an Independent Anti-Corruption Commissioner.
Contracts for cronies will be a thing of the past under a Labour Government.
You can view Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below, or on the Sunderland Echo website. You would think that jobs for the boys would be a thing of the past,...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jan-Feb 2021 no 136 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jan-Feb 2021 no 136 Read more
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
This year, local elections will take place in a context we’ve never known before.
Last year’s Council elections were delayed by national Government, because of Covid-19, but are due to take place this May.
While many of us will have had our vaccine by then, with Sunderland and the North East making incredible progress vaccinating our communities, there is an important step that we all could take to ensure that we can all vote safely in the local elections – sign up for postal voting.
You can vote early with a postal vote, by sending this off ahead of polling day. Around 40% of the population of Sunderland are already registered for a postal vote.
It’s important you have your say in local democracy, and you can do this easily from your own home. The elections in the USA in November were a fantastic success for early postal voting, with over 100 million voters across the country choosing to vote safely and securely from home.
That’s not to say that voting in person at your nearest polling station won’t be safe. Our excellent council workers will be ensuring that polling stations are kept Covid-secure, and social distancing will be strictly maintained.
But I’m sure most people have been in that position where they’ve forgotten it is election day until the last minute, or are too busy to find time to vote on the day. That doesn’t need to be a concern with a postal vote.
Across the next few months, Sunderland Council Electoral Services will be writing to everyone who is not yet registered for a postal vote, to let you know how you can sign up for one.
You can get ahead of the curve, and sign up to vote by post by checking out this interactive website: https://postalvote.labour.org.uk/
Your local Labour candidates have been working hard throughout the pandemic to support communities across Sunderland. You can find out more about the candidates for Washington and Sunderland West on this link: https://www.waswlabour.org/local-election-candidates-2021/
Get your postal vote, and make sure your vote is counted safely and securely in May and in future elections.
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website This year, local elections will take place in a context we’ve never known before. Last year’s...
Sharon Hodgson MP has written to Home Secretary seeking urgent clarification on the impact on Washington and Sunderland West following news that 400,000 police records were deleted.
Click the above image to read Sharon's letter in full
The letter sets out a number of key questions for the Conservative Home Secretary, including, how many people have been affected in Washington and Sunderland West, what work is being done with police to identify gaps in the system and what the impact will be on vital safeguarding issues, such as domestic abuse and stalking.
Commenting Sharon Hodgson MP, said:
“This fiasco is incredibly serious and the Conservative Government’s incompetence is putting the safety of people at risk in Washington & Sunderland West.
“Unfortunately, it seems inevitable that as a result of this mess criminals will escape punishment, victims will miss out on justice and our community will be less safe.
“As such, I was very disappointed that the Home Secretary failed to appear in the House of Commons to answer Labour’s questions on Monday
“I’ve raised this as an urgent matter with the Home Secretary demanding information of the full impact on our area and, vitally, how we can fix this serious problem.”
The Conservatives have established a pattern of incompetent failures. On Free School Meals, on exams, on the delay to introducing a lockdown and now on our very safety, the Government have dropped the ball.
Sharon Hodgson MP has written to Home Secretary seeking urgent clarification on the impact on Washington and Sunderland West following news that 400,000 police records were deleted. Click the above...
You can read Sharon's Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
Last week’s schools chaos shows that the Government’s priorities do not lie with families.
Parents finding out at 8pm on a Monday night that their children wouldn't be going to school the next day, after being reassured the opposite, indicates a wider problem; the Government’s incompetence is leaving families behind.
Seeing children out of school is disappointing, but is now necessary. Schools are open to vulnerable children and those with essential worker parents, but this limited safe capacity has quickly been filled leaving schools under serious pressure.
Meanwhile, parents who cannot work from home are being told to remain at work, creating a childcare issue and leaving parents with the difficult decision of working and keeping their job or looking after their family.
On Wednesday, after pressure from Labour, the Chancellor updated the guidance to make these parents aware that they would be eligible for furlough. But this is at the discretion of employers. It also means a 20% pay-cut.
That’s just not good enough. Once again, working parents are left to juggle childcare and work. It isn’t fair on parents, school staff or children.
As we face the deepest recession of any major economy, we must protect family incomes.
Labour is calling on the Government to create an immediate right for parents to request paid flexible furlough.
Child poverty levels were striking pre-pandemic, with 35% of children in the North East living in poverty. This has now worsened, regional inequality has intensified, and Councils have been starved of income.
Despite this, Boris and Rishi want to cut Universal Credit, which will mean millions of families lose £1,000 a year and another 200,000 children put into poverty. They also plan a raise in council tax, landing every family an extra £90 on their bill.
This harsh austerity won’t help our region build back its economy. It won’t help parents and children build back our communities. It certainly won’t level us up.
Not only are the Tories proving their incompetence, but they are proving that families are not their priority.
You can read Sharon's Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website Last week’s schools chaos shows that the Government’s priorities do not lie with families. Parents...