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Fire and Rehire: Building supplies company Marshalls branded Scrooge employer as workers face Christmas dismissal

December 2021


The leading building supplies company Marshalls has been labelled the ultimate Scrooge employer, by Unite, the UK’s construction union, for threatening to fire and rehire over 1,500 workers this Christmas.

Marshalls has issued the redundancy notices, which relate to changes to shift patterns, without even attempting to enter into negotiations with Unite, the recognised union.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: Marshalls' threat to dismiss its entire workforce this Christmas is simply appalling. 

“Unite will not allow the jobs, pay and conditions of our members to be trampled on. If Marshalls does not rescind this abhorrent ‘fire and rehire’ strategy make no mistake, the union will fight back. We’ll leave no stone unturned in ensuring our members are treated fairly and decently.”

In the past 18 months a large number of companies, including household names such as British Airways and Weetabix, have attempted to use the cover of the Covid pandemic to fire and rehire workers in order to reduce pay and cut conditions.

The surprise announcement by Marshalls to fire and rehire its workforce was made just two days before Unite was due to enter into negotiations with the company about bank holiday pay issues at the conciliation service Acas.

Unite believes the decision to bypass standard negotiations and move immediately to fire and rehire is part of a cynical plan by Marshalls' management to undermine the union with the company’s workforce.

The affected workforce are based at Marshalls’ depots which are located throughout the UK.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “This entirely unnecessary action has left our members fearing for their futures in the run-up to Christmas.

“Refusing to even enter into negotiations with Unite before proposing to fire and rehire its workforce, to resolve concerns about changes to shift patterns demonstrates that Marshalls is treating its workers with absolute contempt.

“The company needs to step back from the brink and restore its good name by entering into genuine negotiations, removing the threat of fire and rehire and resolving any issues it has through the existing disputes mechanism.”

The ability of a company to fire and rehire its workers has become increasingly controversial. However, attempts to change the law on fire and rehire were blocked by Conservative MPs in October.

The decision by Marshalls to attempt to fire and rehire its workers comes shortly after Acas issued new guidance to employers discouraging them from using fire and rehire practices. Unite warned that such guidance, which is not legally enforceable, would not deter unscrupulous employers.

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