YESTERDAY the Unite union announced it is launching a campaign to end fire and rehire with ‘coordinated strikes and actions across the country’.
In a statement Unite said: ‘Workers, trade unionists and supporters around the country will come out on strike, arrange solidarity actions and leaflet workplaces, as pressure mounts on the government to take action against a practice labelled “bully-boy” by a government minister.’
In fact, the pressure is mounting on the leadership of Unite and every trade union from workers who are demanding the unions stop just complaining about fire and rehire and take real action to put an end to it once and for all.
Len McClusky, the general secretary of Unite, is clearly very aware of the pressure on the unions building up from workers over the fire and rehire policy, which forces workers to accept worse pay and conditions or face being sacked.
McClusky described it as a ‘disease that’s ripping through our workplaces’, with the Trades Unions Congress (TUC) reporting that already one in ten workers has been threatened with fire and rehire during the pandemic – a figure that will explode dramatically once the Tory furlough scheme ends and the bosses lose the taxpayer subsidy on wages.
Faced with a rising tide of anger amongst its members, the Unite leadership has been forced to take action by calling limited strike and other actions nationwide.
However, the statement from Unite makes it clear that the union leaders are hoping this limited action convinces the Tories to make fire and rehire illegal.
It states: ‘Unite’s campaign demands that the government steps in, ends fire and rehire and makes the practice illegal’.
At the launch of the union’s national campaign, Howard Beckett, Unite’s assistant general secretary for politics and legal matters, said: ‘The government knows this is wrong and can end fire and rehire with one stroke of a legislative pen.’
He added: ‘But if the government won’t do the right thing, then Unite will. We have members in every sector and in every nation taking industrial action, we have a strike fund of over £40,000,000 and daily strike pay of £70. Fire and rehire will be stopped.’
Militant sounding words but they must be matched by action.
Every worker knows that the Tories will never outlaw the right of the bosses to cut wages, and they are acutely aware that limited one day strikes, even nationwide, will simply be shrugged off by employers determined to maximise their profits through driving up exploitation of their workers.
43 one day strikes called by the GMB union certainly didn’t stop British Gas from sacking 500 engineers on April 14 over their refusal to sign new wage cutting contracts.
Despite these strikes, when the day came the GMB leaders capitulated completely and dumped the 500 engineers, refusing to mount any campaign for their reinstatement.
In calling for a campaign of national action to put an end to fire and rehire Unite has been forced to take a tentative first step, but this falls far short of what is really required.
Every worker understands that limited strike actions amounting to little more than protests will not stop fire and rehire.
With the working class rising in anger against a bankrupt capitalist system that can only offer a future of unemployment and wage cutting the demand must be for the unions to call an immediate emergency conference of the TUC to organise a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government.
A workers’ government will nationalise all the major industries and companies, putting them under the management of the working class as part of building a socialist planned economy.
This is the way to end fire and rehire.
Those union leaders who hide behind militant sounding words as a cover for refusing to lead a real fight against the bosses and the Tories must be removed and replaced by a new leadership prepared to lead the struggle for socialist revolution.