'Cowardly' government accused by Brent MP of siding with 'bad bosses'

Barry Gardiner MP

Barry Gardiner MP - Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Proposals to prevent companies from sacking employees so that they can rehire them on worse terms have been blocked by the government.

Labour's Brent North MP, Barry Gardiner, introduced the proposals to cut down "fire and rehire" tactics, other than as a last resort.

The issue was debated by MPs for nearly five hours, but Mr Gardiner accused the government of “filibustering” and being “cowardly” as it blocked his Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill at its first major stage.

Business minister Paul Scully spoke for more than 40 minutes as time for debate on Friday ran out, and a bid to end the debate early and move to a second reading vote was defeated.

The government also scheduled a statement on an unrelated health policy on Friday, a day usually reserved for proposed legislation tabled by backbench MPs.

Mr Gardiner’s private member’s bill is unlikely to progress to committee stage, where it would have undergone line-by-line scrutiny.

He told the Commons: “In politics, it’s rare to find something that absolutely everyone agrees on and yet all the way from Len McCluskey to the prime minister himself, everyone agrees fire and rehire is wrong. So why is the government determined to block this bill?

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“The tactic of filibustering to talk the bill out is cowardly. It seems the government do not wish to be seen actually to vote against the bill itself. They would rather pretend under the cloak of a closure motion that they want to go on talking about it so it simply runs out of time.”

Earlier in the debate, Mr Gardiner explained his Bill would not ban fire and rehire as this could have “perverse consequences”, but he added it would put on a “statutory footing” the practice followed by good employers.

For the government, Mr Scully said legislation agreed in the context of a pandemic is not “the right way to reflect the concerns for the long-term issue about workers’ rights”.

He said: “We will legislate if we need to, but we’ll do it as a last resort, not as a first resort.”

He added: “Earlier this year we asked [conciliation service] Acas to produce more comprehensive clearer guidance, as I’ve said, to help all employers explore those options before considering fire and rehire.”

Additional reporting by By David Lynch and Martina Bet, PA Political Staff.

   

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