Birkenhead MP slams local employer over ‘fire and rehire’ threats

The Member of Parliament for Birkenhead has today condemned a local employer’s “grotesque” plans to fire and rehire 130 of its workers.

The Wabtec site in Birkenhead has announced that it will begin to issue dismissal notices to staff in June, before re-hiring them on substantially worse pay and conditions.

Mick Whitley said, “the Wabtec Birkenhead site continues to be profitable. This isn’t about economic need – it’s simply about greed.”

He added, “In the midst of the worst cost of living crisis in thirty years, workers in my constituency are being confronted with the impossible choice of accepting drastic pay cuts or joining the dole queue. This is a despicable way to treat a loyal and diligent workforce.”

The Birkenhead MP is a long-standing critic of fire and rehire tactics and called for them to be “stamped out” in last year’s Queen’s Speech. He also backed an attempt to outlaw fire and rehire in Parliament last year, which was thwarted by Conservative MPs.

Unite the Union members at the site are expected to meet on 23 February to discuss the threat, with the union warning that they will proceed to ballot for industrial action unless the proposals are withdrawn.

Speaking about the possibility of industrial action at the site, Mick Whitley – who served as Unite’s Northwest Regional Secretary before entering Parliament – said, “the workers at Wabtec have my complete support in however they decide to respond to these outrageous threats. If they must, they’ll fight and they’ll win. But this doesn’t have to be settled on the picket lines. Management still has the chance to take these plans off the table and commit to giving their workers the security they rightly deserve.”

But the MP warned that this would not be the last fight against fire and rehire, saying, “since the pandemic began, 1 in 10 British workers have been threatened with the sack by unscrupulous employers intent on exploiting this crisis to attack their workers’ pay and conditions. Boris Johnson has promised to build a high-wage economy and level up left-behind towns like Birkenhead, but that means nothing while action on this important issue is so sorely lacking. It’s time for fire and rehire to be outlawed once and for all.”

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