The UK public wants fire and rehire banned, according to a new poll issued ahead of May Day (Saturday 1 May) by the country's leading union, Unite.

Seven in ten people (70 per cent) say that the controversial practice, whereby employers can rip up long established contracts and replace them with inferior ones, cutting pay and conditions, should be made illegal.

A similar number of those polled by Survation for the union (68 per cent) disapprove or strongly disapprove of fire and rehire.

Fire and rehire hit UK workplaces during the pandemic, with businesses, many foreign-owned, using the UK's weak employment laws to raid wages and cut terms such as sick pay. The practice is outlawed in Ireland and Spain, while governments in France, Italy and Germany tie business support to the protection of jobs and workers.

Unite has launched a major national campaign to end fire and hire in the UK, saying that the ease with which workers in this country can see their employment conditions worsened is a boon for bad bosses. The union wants the government to use the upcoming Queen's speech on 11 May to present the necessary legislation to ban the practice.

In research conducted for Unite by Survation, Conservative, Labour and floating voters, all expressed strong negative sentiments about the practice and considered it to be the job of government to abolish it, rather than leave it to boardrooms to self-regulate.

Speaking for Unite, assistant general secretary for legal and politics Howard Beckett said: "It's quite clear that the public is firmly on the side of working people when it comes to the horrific practice of fire and rehire. There is no grey area here - they can see that this is an objectionable practice which should be banned.  

"The government has to get on the same page as the voters on this, and fast.

"It can do so with the Queen's speech next month, bringing forward legislation to end fire and rehire to give the working people of this country the same protection as workers elsewhere, such as those in Ireland and Spain.

"With already one in ten workers and their families going through the process of being told to take a pay cut or take a hike, that's millions of people in this country going through needless turmoil caused by opportunistic bosses.

"The government itself has denounced fire and rehire as 'bully boy tactics' so we expect them to act without delay to use their power to eliminate it.

"The public's revulsion is clear. The government must now end fire and rehire."

DC, who works for Brush Electrical, said: "Fire and rehire has allowed my company to tell me to travel unvaccinated across the globe throughout the pandemic, quarantine in extreme conditions overseas and at the end tell me to take a substantial pay cut or walk away with nothing after over 15 years of service."

Unite's campaign, launched on Monday 26 April, saw dozens of solidarity actions by workers across the country in support of workers fighting off fire and rehire attacks, including those at coffee giants JDE, Go North West buses and Goodlord letting agency. 

Unite’s video of workers speaking out can be seen here 


Notes to editors:

The polling by Survation of 1009 people took place between 15 and 19 April 2021.

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.
For media enquires ONLY contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.
Email: [email protected]
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.