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Keir Starmer backs Usdaw's call for a retail recovery plan - the Prime Minister's response was disappointing

Date: 02 December 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed the backing of Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Opposition, for a retail recovery plan. The Labour Leader quizzed the Prime Minister today on the desperate state of the retail industry after the collapse of Arcadia and Debenhams, but Usdaw is deeply disappointed by his response.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We welcome the support of Keir Starmer for our call for the Government to work with retail employers and trade unions to develop a recovery plan for an industry that was already struggling before this appalling pandemic wreaked havoc on our high streets.

“Unfortunately the Prime Minister offered no additional help and appeared to be more interested in political point scoring than preventing the potential 25,000 job losses in Arcadia and Debenhams announced yesterday.

“Over 200,000 retail job losses and 20,000 store closures this year are absolutely devastating and lay bare the scale of the challenge the industry faces. Each one of those job losses is a personal tragedy for the individual worker and store closures are scarring our high streets and communities.

“What retail needs is a joined up strategy of unions, employers and government working together to develop a recovery plan. There are substantial issues that need to be addressed likes rents, rates and taxation, to create a level playing field between high streets and online retail. Those issues will not be resolved with the support the Government has already announced.

“Retail is crucial to our town and city centres, it employs around three million people across the UK. The Government must take this seriously and we need a recovery plan to get the industry back on its feet. Today the Prime Minister missed the opportunity to show that he understands the scale of the problem and is willing to make a much needed intervention.”
Usdaw calls for a recovery plan to be developed with trade unions and retail employers that includes:
  • Fundamental reform of business rates. The Government committed to a review of business rates earlier this year, but assurance is needed that this will not be delayed further.
  • An immediate and comprehensive review of rental values and lease arrangements. In the short term, the moratorium on evictions for shop rent arrears needs to be extended and retail businesses that are struggling should receive Government support to help with paying the rents which will become liable when the moratorium comes to an end. In the medium term, a rebalancing of the relationship between landlords and tenants is required.
  • Reform of UK tax law to ensure that companies pay their fair share of tax through tackling tax avoidance and the use of offshore havens, with the aim of creating a level playing field between online and high street retailers.
  • Funding for local authorities so they can invest in their local economy, transport networks and high streets. We cannot revive our high streets if core services continue to be undermined.
  • Investment in skills for retail workers, including through union learning and high-quality apprenticeships. This should include an in-depth assessment of emerging trends and potential skills shortages/gaps within the sector.
  • A new deal for retail, distribution and home delivery workers based around a real living wage and guaranteed hours. 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 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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