Short-sighted? Will threats to hospital porters, bus drivers and gas engineers endanger EU trade agreement?

Though the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU commits the UK to uphold EU laws on competition, employment and the environment, there is mounting concern about the ‘fire and rehire’ pressure on workers who do lowly paid but ‘essential’ jobs.

Despite The Government’s 2019 pledge to enshrine workers’ rights pledge in new bill, there has been no sign of the legislation as fire and rehire tactics proliferate.

  • Porters employed by Heartlands Hospital Trust, surprisingly headed by former minister Jacqui Smith, face dismissal on Monday 1st February unless they agree to new rotas. Read more here.
  • Bus drivers in London are resisting new pay and conditions (issues include reducing access to toilet & rest facilities) and losing contracts with guaranteed hours which will be replaced by zero-hour contracts.
  • 7000 British gas engineers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions (pay 15% below agreed rates) or face the sack, and a quarter have already seen their pay or hours downgraded since the first lockdown.

Backtracking? Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has now signalled that a “review” of legislation on working hours and holiday pay will be shelved.

In a Telegraph interview it was also reported that Kwasi Kwarteng is jettisoning a post-Brexit review of workers’ rights and distancing himself from a controversial 2012 book which he co-authored, outlining outlined his vision for the country” (Britannia Unchained).

Though silent on the threats to hospital porters and bus drivers, British Gas action has prompted the government’s Business Select Committee to call for a meeting with company officials, including Chris O’Shea, chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, next Tuesday.

Only weeks ago hospital staff and utility workers, many of whom are regularly exposed to the virus – were being lauded as key workers. Now the pressure is on to review (downwards) their pay and working conditions.

In a widely quoted new Survation poll – results not yet found on their website – 76% of British Gas customers said that any savings should first come from reducing senior managers’ salaries or shareholder dividends.





Posted on January 31, 2021, in Business, COVID-19, Cuts, Finance and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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