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”.
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
During Prime Minister's Questions, Sharon today called on Boris Johnson to urge Centrica British Gas to halt their fire and re-hire plans for skilled workers and return to the negotiation table with workers and their Union, the GMB. Sharon also called on the Government to introduce legislation to outlaw fire and re-hire once and for all.
You can watch Sharon's Question and the Prime Minister's response on the below links:
You can also visit the GMB Union website here >