FIRMS have been slammed for “shameful” plans to fire and re-hire workers on worse conditions to cut costs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

British Airways and Centrica were blasted by Paisley and Renfrewshire North MP Gavin Newlands, who is launching a new bill to ban the controversial practice.

But the companies have hit back, saying that cutting costs by reducing workers’ pay and job benefits is the only way they can keep people in work, due to a dramatic fall due to the economic chaos caused by the pandemic.

Mr Newlands’ bill would ban companies from firing then re-hiring workers, which he said would “water down workers’ rights”. He claims the bill has the backing of major trade unions, including Unite and GMB Scotland.

Mr Newlands said: “The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the economy and businesses across the UK, however it cannot be the case that some major employers exploit the pandemic by firing and then rehiring hard-working staff on significantly reduced terms.

“Households are already under financial pressure as people suffer a drop in income or job losses. For companies - such as Centrica and British Airways - to plough ahead with plans to water down workers’ rights is shameful and must be stopped.”

Unite regional coordinating officer, Elaine Dougall, said: “It’s shameful that Centrica is adopting the same tactics as BA and is using Covid-19 as a smokescreen to cut jobs of loyal and dedicated staff who have worked through the lockdown providing energy to the nation.”

The aerospace sector has been hit especially hard by the pandemic and BA said that cutting costs through firing and re-hiring would be crucial to protect jobs.

A spokeswoman for BA said the industry was going through “the deepest structural change in its history” and called on Unite to join talks with the British Airline Pilots’ Association to protect jobs.

Centrica have defended its use of the practice saying it is vital to make the energy giant “more flexible and price competitive” for its customers.

A spokeswoman added: “We have over 80 different employee contracts with 7000 variations of terms, many of which are outdated and stop us delivering for customers.”