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Government must offer more than warm words about Arcadia as the high street crisis deepens - Usdaw calls for a retail industrial strategy

Date: 11 June 2019 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has called on the Government to step up its efforts to tackle the high street crisis as the fate of another major retailer hangs in the balance, along with the jobs of 18,000 staff. Arcadia has been locked in negotiations with landlords as it seeks agreement on company voluntary arrangements, and a further meeting is due tomorrow.
Responding to a question today in the House of Commons from Labour's Jenny Chapman MP (Darlington), Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst MP said: “(Ms Chapman) raises an important point about the viability of some of the retail outlets operating on our high street and she is absolutely quite right that it is concerning when we're looking at any kind of closures of our retail names on our high street. This is something we stand ready to do what we can along with my colleagues in MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) if closures occur. We are working with the Retail Sector Council and we’re committed to making sure we are working with the retail sector and high streets to make sure we can really truly grow our high streets and protect retail for the future.”

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is very distressing for Arcadia staff to be sat on the sidelines while their employer and the landlords are negotiating over the future of their jobs. Even worse is that the company is anti-union and doesn’t recognise Usdaw. In this time of uncertainty it is crucial the staff are treated with dignity and respect and that is best achieved by working with Usdaw.

“However the problems retail are facing are not confined to Arcadia and our high streets are in crisis. It is long overdue that the Government makes a substantial intervention and we believe that nothing short of an industrial strategy for retail is required to turn the situation around.

“Last week Usdaw launched our proposed strategy, which was attended by retail employers, MPs, campaigners and retail experts. The key missing stakeholder was the Government, which was very disappointing. So we hope the reassurances from the Minister today are not merely more warm words and we start to see action to save our shops.”

Usdaw’s ‘Save Our Shops’ campaign promotes an industrial strategy for retail, which proposes detailed and evidence led policies, centred on three key areas:
  • Economy and community - changing the economic framework on everything from car parking to rates, rents and reforming the tax system to create a level playing field between online and ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers.
  • People and productivity - improving productivity by addressing low pay and insecure work, while giving staff a say in the future of the business they work for and on the introduction of new technology.
  • Retail jobs are proper jobs - challenging perceptions about retail work and promoting the idea that retail jobs are ‘proper jobs’. Seeking a greater focus from Government on the retail industry and ensuring shopworkers are valued.
Usdaw’s industrial strategy for retail: www.usdaw.org.uk/retailstrategy

Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 410,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. 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