Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 26, November 20, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Workers Continue as Class to Oppose "Fire and Rehire" and Seek Solutions

The underlying causes and effects of "Fire and rehire", are revealed in the resistance to the anti-social offensive. Along with employers restructuring of workplace arrangements for self-serving ends, as the increasingly polarising of the social relation in which they stand with workers, takes place. Opposition has even reached the Parliament. A bill, put forward on June 16 by Labour MP for Brent North Barry Gardiner, was talked out by the government. The polarisation of relations is upsetting their lives and conditions. The workers continue to struggle against imposition.

Today Workers' Forum highlights the struggles by workers at Weetabix in the East Midlands and Clarks in the South West.

Clarks


Clarks Village, Somerset

Clarks workers marched through the streets in protest at "fire-and-rehire" policy. Members of the public applauded the marchers as they walked through the village. TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak joined the huge march and protest in "Clarks Village". As well as the march, striking workers have held pickets at the Clarks Westway Warehouse.

They have been on strike since October after the shoe retailer introduced contracts that would equate to a pay cut of up to 20%. Demands included a 5.6% pay rise for workers. Workers said that the current offer "still isn't good enough and represents a pay cut". Long-standing employees say they will suffer.

A deal was introduced after the firm - which is one of the west of England's oldest employers - posted loses of £172m last year as worldwide sales dropped by 44%. In March, Hong Kong-based private equity group LionRock Capital bought a majority stake in the Somerset-based firm after investing £100m. Mendip Trades Union Council previously said the offer would represent an average reduction in pay.

The company demanded concessions. The deal would include new contracts and productivity drives that would mean the abolition of paid 30-minute meal breaks and daily 10-minute coffee breaks, and cuts in sick pay and redundancy entitlements. One worker, Francis Foley, said he had not taken a sick day in 34 years until the new terms and conditions were announced. Another, Trevor Stephens, said the changes were "barbaric". He said that a reduction in earnings could see him lose his home

Weetabix

Workers at Weetabix factories in Kettering and Corby in Northamptonshire are currently taking strike action four days a week against the company moves. Unite the union has blasted Weetabix for using "fire and rehire" tactics to attack the wages and conditions of engineers, including the threat of sackings. Unite estimates this could cost some engineers a loss of wages amounting to £5,000 a year. This despite the fact that last year Weetabix turnover grew by 5 per cent to £325 million and profits leapt by almost 20 per cent to £82 million.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham says: "These attacks are totally unjustified. They are a serving of corporate greed. And what's more, although Weetabix deny it, we have irrefutable evidence that they are using 'fire and rehire' strategies."

In company letters sent to Weetabix engineers in May this year, the Weetabix engineers' manager explained the new contract offer unequivocally. He declared: "One of the options available to us, if your agreement cannot be reached is to terminate your current contract of employment and offer re-engagement on a new contract."

Sharon Graham says: "So there we have it in black and white. Weetabix this week declare 'fire and rehire' strategies have nothing to do with the current dispute, when they are slap bang in the heart of the new contract letters originally sent to their own engineers. It seems Weetabix managers are playing fast and loose with the facts."

Using double speak, a Weetabix declaration stated: "We have repeatedly reassured our engineering team and their union representatives that no individual is at risk of dismissal." It is also flatly contradicted by the threat "to terminate your current contract" made in the May letter.

On Thursday, November 11, the arbitration service ACAS issued their findings on "fire and rehire" tactics. They warned employers: "Our new advice is clear that fire and rehire is an extreme step that can seriously damage working relations and has significant legal risks for organisations."

Unite's Sharon Graham agrees. She says: "Weetabix management ought to take the advice offered by ACAS. Drop 'fire and rehire' and get back to the negotiating table with Unite to sort this dispute."

Solutions

Politically, the cartel party system disempowers the general population. Outside of parliament, stands the real opposition, the workers' opposition, which continually strives to the cohesion and organisation that will empower the people so that they can speak and act in their own name. We can see this in the continued struggles of the workers and their unions against "fire and rehire", which is the strategy and tactics of the financial oligarchy and employing classes and their state's outlook.

There is a new consciousness amongst workers. They are demanding their rights, and speaking out that things cannot continue in the same old way. The crisis is deepening massively and business is demanding further and further concessions out of workers to try to solve their crisis. But concessions are not solutions.

The workers are demonstrating that it is they who are able to provide the solutions for society, with their own outlook, not from the capital-centred perspective. It is only they who have as their own interests the general interests of society, not blinkered by the fragmentation of the socialised economy into its state of mutual competition. They look to a different direction for the socialised economy, which does not force concessions from them, but which is in fact aimed at meeting their needs and guaranteeing their rights.

The workers increasingly require a say over all matters affecting society and the economy. In fact, they need to be the determining factor, the decisive force in decision-making. It is increasingly clear that the real political opposition is coming from the working class and broad sections of people on all fronts.

Regarding fire and rehire, it is evidently the organised workers' movement that provided the impetus to even the parliamentary opposition. For workers to constitute themselves the opposition is not only what is necessary, but is actually what is taking place. It is why the struggle against "fire and rehire" has continued and is stepped up. The issue is taking on more scope and depth.

While the opposition of the workers comes from a position of resistance and blocking what the powers that be are trying to force from the workers, it goes beyond reacting to events. It is the workers having their own independent solutions and their independent thinking, and importantly creating their own forms of decision-making from this position of opposition.

Workers' Forum congratulates the workers in their stand against "fire and rehire", a stand which is also a contribution to the overall struggle to defend the rights of all and to the general interests of society.

(Sources: Union-News, Unite the Union, TUC, BBC)


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