Lord Woodley’s Fire and Rehire Bill passes the Lords and moves to the Commons

The Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill passed unopposed at it's third reading

13 May 2024| News

Lord Tony Woodley’s Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill passed unopposed at its third reading at the House of Lords on Friday. The Bill aims to provide safeguards for workers against dismissal and re-engagement on inferior terms and conditions. It would compel employers to carry out a full consultation on any contract changes and disclose information related to the changes.

Lord Woodley, who was general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) from 2004 to 2007 and went on to be joint general secretary of Unite, said in his speech to the Lords:

“Fire and rehire, as I have said here many times, is a despicable tactic used by unscrupulous employers to rip off workers, cut costs and boost profits—notwithstanding the very rare occasions when it may be necessary, as a last resort, to ensure a company’s survival. That is why it gives me so much pleasure to see this Bill make such progress in the House, and I warmly welcome the cross-party support that it has secured. I pay tribute to my noble friends across the House who have spoken up for this important legislation.

There is also some noteworthy history behind the Bill, and I pay tribute to the people and organisations who have made this progress possible today. I thank my union, Unite, for blowing the whistle on this abusive practice back in 2020, as hugely profitable corporations used the Covid pandemic as cover to undermine workers’ pay and terms and conditions. I thank Unite for raising awareness so successfully both among the public and here in Parliament.

I pay tribute also to my honourable friend in the other place Barry Gardiner, who chose fire and rehire as his Private Member’s Bill the following year. I thank him for the fantastic campaign that he ran with this Bill and for agreeing to carry it forwards in the other place—with your Lordships’ approval, of course.

I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Hendy and Professor Keith Ewing from the Institute of Employment Rights for drafting this powerful and elegant piece of legislation, and for helping me to navigate through the legal quagmire associated with this scandalous practice.

I also thank the other trade unions that backed this Bill—over 20 unions representing working people across the UK economy, from bakers to bartenders, scientists to civil servants, prison officers to professional footballers—in fact, the whole of the British TUC.

I also thank my own party, the Labour Party, for making the fight against fire and rehire, and against current exploitative employment practices, at the forefront of its offer to the British public at the next election.

I am confident that, whatever future befalls the Bill, there will soon be no place for fire and rehire abuses in our economy and nowhere for bad bosses to hide in the statute book. It is an honour to play, I hope, a small part in bringing such desperately needed change a step closer. I beg to move.”

Now due in the Commons, it is widely expected that Labour MP Barry Gardiner will take on the Bill and likely face strong opposition from the Government. Gardiner, welcoming the passing of the Bill said on X (formerly Twitter):

“Great job Tony for taking the Stop Fire & Rehire Bill to the next stage. It’ll be an honour to pick up from where we left off in the Commons almost 2 years ago. Tragedy is that in the months in between the government has done nothing. The next Labour government must and will.”