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Usdaw seeks urgent action from the Scottish Government to tackle the crisis on our high streets

Date: 14 September 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has met with Jamie Hepburn MSP, the Scottish Minister for Business, to discuss the issues the retail sector faces, after a year or more of retail company collapses, store closures and shopworker redundancies.
This year alone we have seen Debenhams considering store closures, House of Fraser still with an uncertain future, Homebase sold for £1 and more store closures planned, Poundworld in administration and sold at the eleventh hour, potential store closures as Sainsbury’s and Asda merge, M&S continuing their store closure programme, Toys ‘r’ Us folding, Mothercare closing stores, Maplins and many others struggling.

Stewart Forrest – Usdaw Scottish Divisional Officer said: “There is no doubt that retail sector is having a really tough time and that is impacting on the Scottish economy, high streets across the country and our members’ jobs. We need an industrial strategy to save our high streets that includes retail employers, government, local authorities and shopworkers through their trade union Usdaw.

“We explained to the Minister that the UK Government had set up a panel of retail employers, which they say will diagnose the issues that currently affect the health of high streets and advise on the best practical measures to help them now and in the future. However, this so-called ‘future of the high streets’ panel does not include the voice of shopworkers who have tremendous experience and the best understanding what is going on, as the people in the business who deal most directly with customers.

“We want to develop an industrial strategy with key stakeholders that tackles the unfair costs ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers have that online doesn’t. Investment in retail staff to provide good, secure and well-paid jobs is necessary to improve productivity, along with a programme of training and reskilling shopworkers.

“We are aware that not all these issues are devolved matters, but there is much that the Scottish Government can do and we hope that they will step up to the plate.”

Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Scotland is the first part of the UK to put town centres at the heart of public sector investment decisions, targeting and prioritising resources to safeguard the future and sustainability of our high streets. As part of a £720 million rates relief package, we enhanced support measures for new development and re-use of vacant property in town centres and elsewhere.

“We are continuing to engage with retailers and organisations to better understand the challenges and opportunities within the retail sector and regular, meaningful, engagement with our Trade Unions is a significant part of that process. The Scottish Government is also working with the Scottish Retail Consortium to develop a joint retail strategy for Scotland that will help provide more certainty for retailers in planning for future tax and regulatory changes.”

Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with around 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers