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Usdaw looks beyond the Coronavirus emergency with a call for a new deal for workers and the retail industry

Date: 01 June 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw has responded to the BEIS Select Committee enquiry into the impact of the Coronavirus emergency with a call for a new deal for the workers, who for many years have been undervalued, and a new deal for the already crisis hit retail industry.
The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the impact of Coronavirus on businesses and workers. Usdaw’s full response: www.usdaw.org.uk/BEISCoronavirus

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Retail was already facing significant challenges before the Coronavirus outbreak. We need decisive Government interventions to kick-start the economy at the end of the outbreak. They must work with relevant stakeholders such as the British Retail Consortium and Usdaw to design an industrial strategy for the retail sector. Tackling the unfair advantages online retail has over the high street and delivering good quality, productive jobs across the sector.

“For too long the essential contribution of workers in retail, distribution, delivery, food manufacturing and the funeral sectors have been undervalued and underpaid.  After this crisis is over, we cannot return to the way things were before. Too many of our key workers delivering essential services are struggling to exist on low pay, facing abuse from the public and working under pressures that impact their mental health.”

Usdaw is calling for a new deal for workers based around:

A minimum wage rate of £10 per hour for all workers: As a result of the crisis, workers across many typically
low paying industries, such as retail, distribution, food manufacturing and pharmaceuticals have been identified as key workers, essential to health of the nation and the economy.  However, all too often, the pay rate these key workers receive bears little resemblance to the value they deliver to the economy. A £10 per hour minimum wage for all workers will recognise this value and relieve the financial burden faced by low paid working people.

A minimum contract of 16 hours per week for everyone who wants it: Short-hours contracts are leaving many workers without the hours they want or need to get by.  Usdaw wants to see an end to the use of short-hours contracts where they do not benefit the worker.  A minimum 16 hour contract ensures that work is offered on a meaningful basis that can only be reduced through express agreement from the worker.

A contract based on an individual's normal hours of work: Where individuals are regularly working over their contracted hours, these additional hours should be guaranteed in the contract.  A guaranteed income based on regular hours will enable workers to plan their lives without the stress of irregular hours and pay.

Protection of Workers legislation: No one should be required to go to work fearful of being abused, threatened or physically assaulted.  The current legal protections are failing to protect retail staff and the Government must urgently introduce a new law which makes it a specific offence to abuse public facing workers.  This offence must carry stiffer penalties.

Improved sick pay provisions: As a result of Usdaw's negotiations, many employers already offer sick pay above the statutory level.  Companies can clearly afford improved sick pay rates and workers should not face a lottery, based on who they work for, to determine whether a period of sickness will leave them in significant debt.  Usdaw is calling for Statutory Sick Pay to be paid from day one and reflect average earnings for all workers.

A proper Social Security system: Universal Credit has been besieged by problems ever since it was launched.  Usdaw is calling for the five week wait to be scrapped and for the system as a whole to be overhauled.  Furthermore, until the overhaul is complete and we get a Social Security system that works for low paid workers, no-one should be forced to move from legacy benefits, i.e. Tax Credits, onto Universal Credit.

A voice at work: Throughout the crisis, trade unions have worked positively with Government and employers to ensure the best outcomes for working people and the economy.  We cannot go back to the old ways where employers refuse to recognise trade unions and Government sets up review bodies that do not include representatives of the workforce. The Government needs to promote the positive role that trade unions have played in resolving issues throughout the crisis.  This will include promoting trade union recognition, removing the current hurdles around statutory recognition and including trade union representatives on all business review bodies.

Job Security: Many people are facing real worry about their job security in this crisis.  For retail workers, this is not a new worry.  There has been constant restructuring for a number of years and the threat of job cuts is always just around the corner.  It cannot be acceptable that the key workers who are doing so much now do not feel secure in their jobs going forward.  We need stronger protections against redundancy and dismissal, from day one of employment.  We also need proper consultation about new technology and investment in skills so that workers are able to keep up in a changing workplace.

Fair treatment and equality for all workers: Most of the underpaid frontline key workers are women.  These essential roles have been undervalued and underpaid for too long.  Women workers need equal pay and they need decent pay.  School and nursery closures have put extra pressure on women workers who often have had to reduce hours or take unpaid leave to provide childcare. We need new family friendly rights that support parents and carers to juggle work and family life.

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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