An MP has ramped up calls to protect workers by introducing a new law to prohibit firms from sacking staff and re-hiring them on reduced wages, as fears rise more people will be hit by “exploitative practices” as government furlough schemes end.
Sunday, 26th July 2020, 12:49 pm
SNP MP Gavin Newlands has also renewed party calls on the Treasury to extend the financial support measures into 2021, and said cutting back the schemes too early could lead to job losses on a scale not seen since the 1980s.
His Employment (Dismissal and Re-employment) Bill, which has cross-party support from members of every party in Westminster, comes in response to companies – including Centrica and British Airways – allegedly looking to lay off and then rehire thousands of workers on diminished terms due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Trade unions have accused Centrica, which owns British Gas, of using the pandemic as a “smokescreen” to force its 20,000 employees to accept worse employment contracts or lose their jobs. The company is already in talks to “simplify” the wide range of employment contracts it uses across its 20,000-strong workforce, and announced last month it would axe 5,000 jobs.
Unite union has also claimed that British Airways plans to fire the vast majority of its workforce and rehire them on reduced pay and worse terms after the company announced a consultation on as many as 12,000 job cuts.
Mr Newlands said: “The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the economy and businesses across the UK, however it cannot be the case that some major employers exploit the pandemic by firing and then rehiring hard-working staff on significantly reduced terms.
“Households are already under financial pressure as people suffer a drop in income or job losses. For companies – such as Centrica and British Airways – to plough ahead with plans to water down workers’ rights is shameful and must be stopped.
“It is absolutely critical that the UK government heeds the warnings and takes the urgent step to back my Dismissal and Re-employment bill – backed by cross-party MPs – and ban the exploitative practice before thousands of staff fall victim to this move.”
He added: “If the UK government is genuine in its pledge to help workers then it must back the measures in the Bill and ban employers from firing and rehiring staff on diminished terms.
“Beyond that it must also extend its furlough schemes into 2021 – failing to do so could lead to job losses on a scale not seen since the 1980s.
“With the first round of cuts to the support schemes due to hit next week, and the threat of job losses growing each day, the Treasury must scrap its self-imposed cliff-edge deadline and put workers first.
The Bill has received the backing of major trade unions across the UK including Unite, BALPA and GMB Scotland.
Centrica has said that it needs to make changes to staffing “to win back customers, grow our company and protect jobs in the long run. Our employees’ base pay and pensions will be protected but simplifying and modernising their terms is essential if we’re to become more flexible and price competitive.
“We understand the impact this will have on colleagues and this is not an option we want to use but we must make these changes and we must conclude these talks before the winter period.”
BA has said it is “acting now to protect as many jobs possible” and is “committed to consulting openly with our unions and our people as we prepare for a new future.”
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