UK Government urged to devolve employment laws to Holyrood

Employment law needs to be “urgently devolved” to the Scottish Parliament to end “exploitative fire and rehire” practices, Boris Johnson has been told.

SNP MP Gavin Newlands has written to the Prime Minister urging the handing of power to Holyrood following the UK Government’s refusal to back legislation that would ban the practice, which forces employees to sign new contracts at worse terms or face redundancy – and which recently saw hundreds of British Gas workers lose their jobs.

The Paisley and Renfrewshire North MP had brought forward two Bills at Westminster to make it illegal for firms to threaten workers with the sack if they don't accept poorer terms and conditions, but neither received adequate support.

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And while ministers ordered a review of the controversial practice by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, with the findings submitted to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s department in February, the report has not yet been made public.

Boris Johnson is being urged to devolve immigration and employment law to the Scottish Parliament.Boris Johnson is being urged to devolve immigration and employment law to the Scottish Parliament.
Boris Johnson is being urged to devolve immigration and employment law to the Scottish Parliament.

According to the government, the delay is due to allowing it “scope for further policy deliberations”.

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Last month hundreds of British Gas engineers lost their jobs after refusing to sign up to tougher employment terms imposed by the company’s “fire and rehire” scheme. The energy supplier had handed dismissal notices to around 1,000 staff.

The engineers were granted two weeks in which to sign up the contracts that call for longer hours together with shifts over weekends and bank holidays – or lose their jobs. British Gas said changes were necessary to reverse the company’s decline.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Newlands warned the UK was falling behind other European nations on workers' rights, and despite numerous statements by government ministers there had been no steps taken to protect workers from being fired and rehired on significantly reduced contract terms.

“Despite numerous statements stating the Tory government’s alleged condemnation of such practices, it's clear that it has no intention of taking the necessary steps and legislating to prohibit fire and rehire, and to give employees real protections against these despicable tactics,” he said.

“At a time when many people have lost their jobs due to the impact of the pandemic, threatening workers with the sack unless they accept significantly reduced contract terms and working conditions is unacceptable and shameful.

“If the Prime Minister continues refusing to take steps to protect workers’ rights, then his government must devolve the responsibility for employment law to the Scottish Parliament, so that the Scottish Government can act by following the lead of most other European countries and banning employers from using threats of fire and rehire.”

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Meanwhile the UK Government is also under pressure over immigration, with new Scottish Government Cabinet secretary for the constitution, Angus Robertson, writing to home secretary Priti Patel asking for an urgent meeting in the light of the attempted raid on two men in Glasgow earlier this month.

The attempted removal of the men – who have lived in Scotland for ten years – sparked a large public protest in Kenmure Street, with the Home Office officers ultimately releasing them.

Mr Robertson said the immigration raid in Pollokshields had “created an unnecessary situation requiring a significant police presence to ensure public safety” and a “more humane approach to immigration enforcement is required”.

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