Category Archives: Employment

You clapped NHS workers – now they face scummy ‘fire and rehire’ plan to worsen work conditions

There could not be a more striking example of the truism that a battle may have been won but the war continues.

Late last month, This Site celebrated British Airways’s decision to end ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.

Today I saw this, from Zarah Sultana – one of Labour’s remaining worthwhile MPs. I include the follow-up tweet for its relevance:

They were referring to a decision by a National Health Service hospital in Birmingham to fire its porters – unless they sign new contracts that put them on worse pay and conditions.

Around 140 workers, who are members of the Unison union, have been told that they must accept new, rotating shift patterns or face redundancy.

Heartlands is part of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, which is headed up by former Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith.

The city’s eight Labour MPs have written to Smith condemning the firing and rehiring.

Rightly so. ‘Fire and rehire’ is one of the lowest employment practices permitted in the United Kingdom.

It is only permitted because the Conservative government allows it – and actively uses it in the NHS.

That’s the same Conservative government whose members hypocritically stood in the street and clapped NHS employees every Thursday for many weeks last year.

It seems Tory gratitude only lasts as long as a photo opportunity.

That’s how they can be beaten, of course. They hate bad publicity.

And this should be all over the headlines. Why isn’t it?

Is it because the Tory media are suppressing it?

Well, if you fancy a bit of homework, how about doing something to raise the profile of this issue, like asking your favourity newspaper, TV or radio channel where their coverage is?

Source: Heartlands hospital porters defy threat of the sack from bullying bosses

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Kwarteng gives up plan to cut workers’ rights post-Brexit

Kwasi Kwarteng: “We’re not interested in watering down workers’ rights.”

It seems Kwasi Kwarteng has been shamed into giving up on a review of UK workers’ rights post-Brexit that could have significantly reduced the living standards of millions of people.

Only last week, the Business Secretary confirmed that he was consulting businesses in plans that could include an end to the 48-hour maximum working week, changes to rules about breaks at work, and the removal of in-work benefits.

But he told Robert Peston yesterday (January 27):

“The review is no longer happening within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). I made it very very clear to officials in the department that we’re not interested in watering down workers’ rights.

“I can’t have been more clear about this on a number of occasions. I’ve said repeatedly that Brexit gives us the opportunity to have higher standards and a higher growth economy and that’s what officials in the department are 100% focused on.”

Was he shamed into this u-turn?

This Site and many others recently reminded Kwarteng that he is a co-author of the notorious collection of hard-right-wing Tory essays, Britannia Unchained.

The book dared to claim that British workers – the power behind the Industrial Revolution and a huge amount of progress that has changed the world – are lazy.

But Kwarteng and his fellow authors, including current Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and Queen of Cheese Liz Truss, were found to be among the laziest MPs in Parliament at the time, with some of the worst attendance records.

This change of plan comes after the union Unite struck a deal with British Airways to end the despicable practice of “fire and re-hire” – forcing workers out of their jobs in order to make them re-apply for the same work at lower pay and with worse working conditions.

It is another great victory for working people at a time when Tories might expect to be able to get away with anything.

Source: Review of UK workers’ rights post-Brexit is axed in sudden U-turn | Kwasi Kwarteng | The Guardian

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Victory in fight against ‘fire and rehire’ by British Airways after Unite union secures deal

This is great news at a time when companies seem keen to ramp up the stress on employees who already have enough worry with Covid-19.

British Airways has agreed to end so-called “fire and rehire” employment practices.

The company came to the deal after nine days of strike action over the Christmas/New Year period which the union United said caused “overwhelming disruption to the company’s cargo services”.

Unite had proposed a urther nine days of strike action to start on January 22 but the first three days were called off at the last minute, after progress was made at the negotiations.

Another round of strikes due to begin this weekend has also been called off.

The deal is as follows:

  • End of “fire and rehire” (the last area of BA where this was a threat)

  • Workers will revert to previous contractual provisions subject to agreed changes

  • No compulsory redundancies

  • Improved pay protection for staff whose pay sits above the new agreed rates

  • An increase in pay for a significant proportion of staff

  • Members who did not sign the new contract and were dismissed will be offered their jobs back on the agreed terms.

Unite’s members will have to be balloted on the deal, and it is understood that they are likely to accept it.

It’s a great victory for Unite, but let’s not minimise the step that BA has taken at a time when other firms are opportunistically forcing employees to re-apply to do the same job they’re already doing, but for less money and with fewer work-related protections.

BA is setting an example, and even if nobody else follows it, let’s applaud that choice.

Source: Unite ends BA ‘fire and rehire’ dispute by securing deal to avoid forthcoming cargo strike action

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Turncoat Tories who clapped key workers are now planning to stab them in the back

Here’s a relatively new buzzphrase for you: “Fire and re-hire.”

It has become the latest fashion among big corporations in the UK, with multiple strikes taking place over recent weeks as unions have done their best to protest this despicable practice.

The aim is to fire workers, then hire them back immediately – at a lower rate of pay (and possibly with fewer in-work benefits as well).

This means bosses have more cash to pass around among themselves and shareholders – and there’s the added bonus of causing unnecessary unpleasantness to the people who actually generate the profits that these parasites enjoy.

This week, Conservative MPs had a chance to support a Parliamentary motion stating that “fire and re-hire” should be banned. They didn’t even turn up.

Labour has been all over this.

I dare say every Labour MP with a Twitter account has put up something similar.

The Tory press was more interested in hounding Labour’s Ian Byrne for joining a picket line to stop British Gas from using these despicable ‘fire and rehire’ practices.

Here’s Mr Byrne to say what he’s been up to:

Tory rags attacked Byrne for travelling 42 miles to Stockport during lockdown.

They omitted mention of the fact that he was well within his rights as the travel was related to his job, and he was perfectly entitled to do it.

Also, of course, Boris Johnson had travelled to another country, and the Tory rags didn’t utter a whisper about that!

I think Rachael is right. So is Karie:

The TUC has published an article pointing out that “fire and re-hire” is the diametric opposite of Boris Johnson’s claim that he intends to “level up” the UK – as it levels-down workers’ pay and living standards.

The threat of fire-and-rehire, when workers are dismissed and told to reapply for their roles on inferior terms, has been used in sectors from aviation to hospitality in recent months.

And workers at British Gas are currently taking industrial action against an attempt by bosses to unilaterally cut their pay and conditions.

A poll published by the TUC today reveals that nearly one in 10 (9%) workers have been told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since the first lockdown in March.

Nearly a fifth of 18-24 year-olds say their employer has tried to re-hire them on inferior terms during the pandemic.

And twice as many black and minority ethnic (BME) workers (15%) have been faced with “fire and rehire” as white workers (8%)

The Tories – absent from the vote to support banning the practice – were probably instead plotting ways to water down workers’ rights even further.

After Brexit, the Tory government has an opportunity to inflict huge harm on the people who power the national economy. Kwasi Kwarteng may be denying it but if that wasn’t the plan, where were they during the “fire and re-hire” vote?

Bizarrely, the Tories have been helped in this plan by British voters.

British voters voted to leave the European Union.

And British voters voted to give Boris Johnson a Parliamentary majority of 80 seats, to make sure that he would be able to give employers carte blanche to steal pay from the hands of their employees.

Ask these British voters who they would support in a future election and I’m willing to bet that most of them would say they’d support the Tories again.

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Kwarteng to launch post-Brexit ‘review’ of workers’ rights. Shall we make some predictions?

Kwasi Kwarteng: a few years ago he said, “Fracking is over.” Will he soon be saying, “workers’ rights are over” too?

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has admitted he is reviewing protections to UK workers’ rights.

Kwarteng has denied plans to strip us of our entitlement to paid holidays and other protections – but he is infamous for having condemned UK workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

When he stated this in the book Britannia Unchained, he was slated as a hypocrite because his own record for attending Parliament was among the worst of all MPs. One can only hope being promoted to a ministerial position has instilled a sense of diligence in him. But I doubt it.

The business secretary has confirmed his department is reviewing how EU employment rights protections could be changed after Brexit, while insisting they will not be watered down.

The Guardian understands a consultation on employment rights was signed off by Kwasi Kwarteng’s predecessor Alok Sharma… Insiders say the consultation is ready to launch and has been circulated among some select business leaders.

If business leaders are being asked to provide input before the consultation even starts, then the aim seems clear: to coerce working people into making more money for their employers and taking home less for themselves.

I’ve been writing about this since before the EU referendum, and I fancy having a stab at predicting how we’ll be attacked.

The rights most at risk would be:
• Working time rules, including limits on working hours and rules on the amount of holiday pay a worker is entitled to;
• Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE), i.e. the EU-derived protections to the terms and conditions of workers at an organisation or service that is transferred or outsourced to a new employer;
• Protections for agency workers and other ‘atypical’ workers, such as part-time workers;
• Current levels of compensation for discrimination of all kinds, including equal pay awards and age discrimination; and
• Rights for workers’ representatives to be consulted if major changes are planned that will change people’s jobs or result in redundancies (as have been used in recent major announcements in the steel industry).

Feel free to add your own predictions to the comment column.

Source: Business secretary confirms post-Brexit review of UK workers’ rights | Brexit | The Guardian

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Employers are forcing staff to spread Covid-19, research finds

Rampant: the Covid-19 virus is once again on the loose across the UK because the Tories haven’t just lost control; they’ve deliberately thrown it away.

This is what wage slavery does to people; it forces us to do the wrong thing, harming not just our own health but that of everybody around us.

This Writer had to face it in one of my newspaper jobs. The company dictated that employees could only take a maximum of five sick days per year – and I suffered from cluster headaches.

The condition is now acknowledged by the NHS to cause the most extreme pain of any kind at all; when it comes on, it can last around three months, inflicting excruciating migraines on the sufferer (in my case) around four times a day.

You can see the problem. The condition could last three months but I was allowed only five days off work. Even taking all my vacation time, I could not cover the time I needed.

So this does not surprise me at all:

Thousands of workers feel pressured to return to their jobs when they still risk spreading coronavirus, and employers who breach Covid guidelines are avoiding serious punishment, according to evidence of major weaknesses in England’s lockdown measures.

One in 10 of those doing insecure work, such as zero-hours contracts and agency or gig economy jobs, said they had been to work within 10 days of a positive Covid test, according to research seen by the Observer. For workers overall the proportion is around one in 25.

These people have been coerced into endangering themselves and the people around them.

And consider the consequences. Suppose family members, friends, people on the same bus or train caught Covid-19 as a result, and some died. Who would get the blame for infecting them? The firm that forced people to work when they were sick? Or the employee?

I think we all know the answer.

And now the Tory government wants to cut back employees’ rights.

New Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has denied plans to strip us of our entitlement to paid holidays and other protections – but he is infamous for having condemned UK workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

So what do you think he’s going to do?

Meanwhile,

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors have not issued any enforcement notices on companies for Covid safety breaches since the start of the latest lockdown, despite having been contacted 2,945 times between 6 and 14 January about safety issues.

Just 0.1% of about 97,000 Covid safety cases it has dealt with during the pandemic appear to have resulted in the issuing of an improvement or prohibition notice. No company has been prosecuted for a Covid-related breach.

This is just not taking Covid-19 seriously.

No wonder the virus is rampaging across the UK and our hospitals are being overwhelmed.

Source: Staff ‘pressured to go back to work’ in breach of UK Covid rules | Coronavirus | The Guardian

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Johnson says he’s not planning to scrap workers’ rights. Do you believe him?

Boris Johnson has insisted he is not planning a post-Brexit bonfire of UK workers’ rights, after the Financial Times reported on a meeting between him and business chiefs.

The report states that worker protections the Tories repeatedly promised to protect after the UK left the EU will be “ripped up”.

The paper claims the Tories are planning laws to slash holiday pay entitlements, bin rest breaks, and allow bosses to force you to work longer hours, among others.

Analysis by Evolve Politics states that

The secretive plans are also predicted to benefit wealthy bosses to the tune of billions whilst severely impacting the take-home pay of many ordinary workers.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband, on Twitter, got straight to the point:

What a relief to see that someone on Labour’s front bench seems to remember what his job is supposed to be. But what a shame that it comes after Miliband voted in favour of the Brexit deal that makes the alleged Tory plans possible.

Labour owns Brexit as much as the Tories do – with the exception of those who defied Keir Starmer’s whip and voted against it.

Johnson has denied everything – as might be expected.

According to the BBC,

A government spokesperson said: “We have absolutely no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights.

“The UK has one of the best workers’ rights records in the world, and it is well known that the UK goes further than the EU in many areas.

“Leaving the EU allows us to continue to be a standard setter and protect and enhance UK workers’ rights.”

But the report adds:

When the UK left the EU it retained many of its laws, but it is now able to change them.

In the 2019 Queen’s Speech outlining the government’s agenda for the coming parliamentary session, changes in employment law were promised.

A new Employment Bill is expected to be published in 2021.

It goes on to say that the Bill is expected to cover issues including the distribution of tips.

Considering the Johnson government’s track record, the best advice This Writer can give is that of Peter Stefanovic in the tweet below:

Source: Brexit: No plans to dilute workers’ rights, minister says – BBC News

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Plaudits for Naga Munchetty after she demolishes Zahawi over help for the self-employed

A few facts about Nadhim Zahawi, the current UK business minister: these are from 2016 so it’s a few years since he voted to cut disability benefits but that cut is still in force. I wonder how warm his stables are today?

Naga Munchetty is carving herself a niche as the hard woman of BBC Breakfast.

This morning she made mincemeat out of Tory business minister and twit Nadhim Zahawi over the government’s lack of interest in supporting people who are self-employed:

The performance raised a huge amount of support for Ms Munchetty on the social media:

At this rate, the Tories won’t be able to use the BBC as a mouthpiece for their daft policies any more. Then where will they go?

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The big Tory ‘Rethink Reskill Reboot’ blunder that has backfired badly

Boris Johnson should have known better but he didn’t. Neither did his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who is more directly responsible.

You see, after he announced that he was re-focusing government support to concentrate only on “viable” employment, Sunak had to answer questions about what was to be done with people whose jobs were “unviable”, according to his reckoning.

His answer? “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” He wanted people to re-train for different jobs.

No doubt he is now left wondering why people in some employment sectors have taken his words as an attack…

… especially after a government advert that appeared today:

It specifically targets entertainers – “Fatima” is a ballet dancer, and therefore belongs to a highly-exclusive corner of the live entertainment sector.

And it suggests that her time would be better-spent working at a desk, in front of a computer, making money for somebody else. Hence this response:

(Of course the reference is to the fact that the government lost more than 16,000 positive Covid-19 traces because it was recording them on an Excel spreadsheet that ran out of fields.)

Others have responded equally bitingly – and often amusingly. I’ll intersperse what follows with some of these.

But it is important to mention the elephant in this particular room: the fact that entertainment is a multi-billion pound industry that deserves government support that Sunak and Johnson aren’t providing.

The case was made very well by Rou Reynolds. If you’re not familiar with the name, he’s the lead singer of the band Enter Shikari – a personal favourite of This Writer’s stepdaughter, before you all start labouring under illusions that I’m suddenly “with it”.

In an open letter to Sunak, published by that venerable pop periodical Kerrang!, he made the case for entertainers to receive support – and he made it well:

Musicians rely on live performance for their main source of income.

The music industry has been one of the most drastically hit industries throughout the whole [Covid-19] crisis. And as the government furlough scheme ends in a few weeks, your government has decided to give the least amount of support for one of the hardest hit industries.

Like a fish writhing in the dust at the bottom of a drained lake, in losing the option of gigging, those in the music industry have been deprived of their life-source.

And the government is standing on what was once the shoreline, suggesting to the fish that it retrains as an elephant.

Most people in the music industry are now being told they no longer have a “viable job” and must retrain or otherwise adapt. There is to be no financial support for them. This, from the same government that wasted £2 billion on helping businesses that are actually thriving during the pandemic. From the same government that wasted millions painting planes, handing out dodgy coronavirus contracts to its ill-equipped pals and employing inept private companies to do jobs they aren’t trained for.

Lots of people are rightly focusing on the economics, pointing out that the music industry adds £5 billion a year to the UK economy. Live music specifically adds the same amount as the whole of the UK fishing industry.

But I would argue that even more important than the economics, live music creates community, friendships and it brings people together indiscriminately – something that this country desperately needs. It is a reliable tonic for our mental health, both for the performers and the listeners. It heals, it unites, it gives hope, it provides escape, it motivates us and it connects us.

Of course, these things are not measured in our economic statistics. Nor do they seem to be acknowledged at all.

Telling artists to diversify, retrain, or simply get another job is even odd in itself, to be honest. Most artists do have other jobs already. Most artists juggle multiple aspects of their own career already. Many could attempt to get more hours in the jobs they have outside of the music industry and just what…? Leave it to rot? Leave it in the safe hands of the well-funded, “establishment-approved” mainstream, and lose all the beautiful diversity and nuance of the underground, the alternative and the more esoteric scenes? The very scenes that have made UK music the world’s most inventive and leading cultural force for decades.

And it’s not just artists that are going to struggle either without support, is it? It’s not just whinging, complaining singers like me!

You remember those iceberg diagrams? The musicians are the little bit of the iceberg we see above the water. Look below the surface and you witness the true extent of the colossal size of the industry: it’s huge.

It’s the stage technicians, lighting designers, engineers, management and production teams, agents, press teams, media, photographers, videographers, promoters, venue staff, security, bus and truck drivers, caterers, even the kebab shop near the venue that relies on the gig-goer’s custom to keep its doors open. What happens to them?

And if you remove an artist’s main source of income, how are they then supposed to afford to record new music? You’re then impacting the record producers, the studio engineers, the mixing and mastering engineers, the session musicians, the video directors and music video production teams, the labels and the publishers.

You and your government must reconsider.

Yours,
Rou Reynolds (unviable content creator, awaiting retraining)

Source: An Open Letter To Rishi Sunak, By Rou Reynolds — Kerrang!

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Sunak announces furlough scheme replacement. Is it any good?

After he served up this little howler – and pushed up Covid-19 infections massively, Rishi Sunak needs to make a good impression with his plan to replace the furlough scheme for jobs affected by Covid-19. Has he managed it?

Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new “job support scheme” to replace the “furlough” programme he has been running since lockdown began in March.

This new scheme will run for another six months until the end of April 2021.

What is it?

A six-month scheme starting on November 1.

To be eligible, employees must work a minimum of 33 per cent of their normal hours.

For the remaining hours not worked, the government and employer pay one-third of the wages each.

So employees working 33 per cent of their hours will receive at least 77 per cent of their pay.

Where will employers get the extra money?

According to BBC News:

Sunak announced a “pay as you grow” scheme for businesses which took government guaranteed loans during the crisis.

“Loans can now be extended from six to ten years nearly halving the average monthly repayment,” he said.

They can also move to interest only payments or suspend payments if they are “in real trouble” for up to six months.

He said no credit rating will be affected.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans will also be extended for up to 10 years.

There will also be a new loan scheme in January, the chancellor says.

He is also extending the scheme for self-employment on “similar terms” to the existing job support scheme.

The scheme is mainly for small and medium-sized firms. Only large firms that can prove they have been harmed by Covid will be eligible for the Job Support Scheme.

What about VAT?

Sunak is also cancelling the planned increase of VAT from five per cent to 20 per cent, which was due to come into effect in January.

Instead, the lower rate of five per cent will remain until 31 March next year.

Viable jobs?

Sunak said the new scheme is intended to support “viable” jobs only – and that should ring alarm bells:

Of course – Tories being Tories – certain extremely rich people are enjoying the continuation of their own subsidies at the same level:

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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