Speaking at a remote meeting of the council on Monday evening, Dunsilly SDLP Councillor Ryan Wilson who put forward the motion said that the “controversial practice has become widespead during the coronavirus crisis”.
Cllr Wilson, the SDLP’s spokesperson on workers’ rights and trade union official, reported that one fifth of 18 to 24-year-olds said that employers have tried to re-employ them on inferior terms.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity at work. To be employed on worse conditions is plain wrong and must be outlawed.”
He acknowledged the impact of Covid on businesses but stressed that firing and re-hiring is “unfair and completely unacceptable” and “makes a mockery of workers’ rights”.
He added that employees “should not be made to pay for a crisis they have not caused”.
“This council therefore calls on the Department for Economy to close this legal loophole as a matter of urgency, for example by amending The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 to specify that such redundancies should automatically be regarded as unfair dismissals.”
Supporting the motion, Glengormley Sinn Fein Councillor Michael Goodman underlined the need to “prevent any support of this practice”.
The motion had initially referred to a “growing number of employers, especially in the retail, hospitality and aviation sectors”, who are making employees redundant before re-employing them on less-favourable terms and conditions.
Macedon Ulster Unionist Councillor Robert Foster said the original wording of the motion was a “very big slight on employers in the retail, hospitality and aviation sectors”.
“Many have made a shortfall but have kept their workers there.”
He went on to say that he could not support the original motion as these sectors have been “hit hard”.
“I think we should be supporting them instead of putting a slight on them.”
Airport Sinn Fein Councillor Annemarie Logue said that she was happy to support the full motion.
“We are aware of employees who do not have protection of unions.”
Cllr Logue went on to describe the practice of “firing and re-hiring” as “absolutely scandalous”.
“i would like to think there are no businesses within our borough that are implementing this practice,” she added.
Antrim and Newtownabbey Mayor Councillor Jim Montgomery commented: “It is an unacceptable practice to fire and re-hire but to tar everybody in the retail, hospitality and aviation sectors is wrong.”
Cllr Wilson epxlained: “The motion was to highlight particular areas where there has been a significant amount of firing and re-hiring taking place and is not intended to be a slight on businesses and industries, but just to highlight primarily where it is happening.”
However, the SDLP councillor said that he was happy to remove the three sectors from the motion and it was subsequently approved.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.
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