Employment

Tesco workers win legal case against 'fire and rehire' tactics

The High Court victory is a “huge win” for the workers in Daventry and Lichfield, their solicitor said.

Tesco workers have won a case against the supermarket's 'fire and rehire' tactics. Image: Unsplash / Shashank Verma

Tesco workers have won a court case against the supermarket’s use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.

Employees at Tesco distribution centres in Daventry and Lichfield faced a cut to their wages as part of a change to their terms and conditions of employment.

The Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) brought the case representing 42 Tesco workers to the High Court, arguing the supermarket was firing and rehiring people on worse terms. Tesco disputed the claim and is considering an appeal.

The ruling, which will prevent the supermarket from using fire and rehire in this case, has been described as a “huge win” by their lawyer. USDAW has been battling against the increasing use of the tactics alongside MPs and other unions for over a year.

“The practice of firing and re-hiring staff on less favourable terms and conditions has been in widespread use over the last 18 months as employers try to erode rights that have been hard fought for and are there to protect some of the lowest paid in society,” said Neil Todd, trade union specialist at Thompsons Solicitors, which represented USDAW in the case. 

“Tesco had made unequivocal commitments to its workers who had come into work throughout the lockdown, when it needed them most. The court agreed that, in those circumstances, it wasn’t then open to them to deploy fire and rehire tactics when it suited them.”

The pandemic has seen companies increasingly use fire and rehire tactics as a way to get employees to accept worse terms. There is currently no specific legislation that outlaws fire and rehire. Labour MP Barry Gardiner is bringing legislation through parliament to oppose the practice through his private member’s bill titled the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill.

This isn’t the first time Tesco has been accused of using fire and rehire tactics. Workers in Scotland won in the Court of Session in February last year, with the court ruling that Tesco cannot terminate workers at its Livingston distribution centre and re-engage them on new terms without retaining their rate of pay.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “A very small number of colleagues in our UK distribution network receive a supplement to their pay, which was offered a number of years ago as an incentive to retain colleagues. 

“We now have over 16,000 colleagues working in distribution, the vast majority of whom do not receive this top up, and so we took the decision last year to phase it out. We made a fair offer to colleagues, and many of them chose to accept this. We are disappointed with today’s outcome and we are currently considering whether we will appeal this decision.”

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