Outlawing predatory “fire and rehire” tactics by grasping companies is emerging as a major test of Keir Starmer’s boldness.
A radical draft programme devised by Shadow Employment Secretary Andy McDonald and trade union leaders for the party’s annual conference prioritises banning wage cuts for existing workers.
Firms would be forced to consult employees about any changes, and barred from imposing changes without agreement, except in the most extreme cases.
Middlesbrough MP McDonald – a former employment solicitor for workers – believes this would appeal to voters in blue brick red wall seats where job insecurity is a plague.
He recently said in the Commons that “protections for workers are woefully weak”.
During the pandemic, TUC calculated one in 10 workers (three million) were threatened with the sack unless they swallowed cuts. British Gas and British Airways are both guilty of this.
Prohibition of this practice would be popular according to a Survation poll, which found three quarters of voters want the exploitation stopped.
It would also answer the charge that Labour has few attractive policies.
But it poses a problem for Starmer, who is under pressure from the Right of his party to be business-friendly.
If Starmer opposes the vow, he will be accused of selling out, as strengthening workers’ rights and trade unions was one of 10 pledges he made to win Labour’s leadership.
Aides insist it survives as one of three policies he prioritised in his Life Stories interview with Piers Morgan – those being to deal with economic “insecurity and inequality”, to provide first-class education for every child and to ensure real dignity in older age.
When Labour MP Barry Gardiner, part of Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench team, introduces a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament this month to stop fire and rehire, the strength of Starmer’s support will be telling.