Speaking online at the TUC’s annual congress, Paddy Lillis - Usdaw General Secretary said:
“Retail has faced many challenges over the last number of years, with the loss of thousands of jobs and big high street retailers like Woolworths, Toys R Us and British Home Stores, Somerfield and many more have gone out of business.
“Now further misery has been inflicted on our country, our people and the economy with Covid-19 when the pandemic hit and lockdowns were introduced. Much of the economy was working from home or furloughed, but supermarket workers and the supply chain had to go to work to keep food available for our communities.
“The efforts of trade union members in retail ensured that the public health crisis did not turn into food shortages. In this crisis it became clear to everyone what we in the trade union movement have been saying for years, that workers in supermarkets, distribution centres, food processing sites, delivery drivers are key workers, but sadly undervalued, underappreciated and underpaid.
“Well, now the time has come for all key workers to be rewarded. We want a New Deal for Workers. We want a Living Wage. We want guaranteed hours. We want an end to insecure contracts. And we want stronger employment rights at work.
“The Coronavirus threat is far from over and we are now facing another crisis – an economic crisis. In retail, the future of the high street is hanging in the balance. Shops that are the heart of our communities, our towns, our cities are struggling to survive.
“This year, so far, 125,000 retail jobs have been lost and 14,000 shops have permanently closed. We are facing a massive crisis and what we need is Government intervention to save our high streets.
“Frances O’Grady yesterday made the case for the Government to work with trade unions to put in place a national recovery plan. Usdaw fully supports the call for a tripartite approach of unions, employers and the Government working together to develop that plan.
“We have long called for an industrial strategy for retail, to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency. As a society we have a choice, do we want to see the high street go to the wall or do we want to save it. Retail is an important feature of our towns, cities and communities. It employs around 3 million people and needs a recovery plan to get the industry back on its feet.
“Today I am calling for a new deal for the retail sector around a living wage and guaranteed hours and a recovery plan that will protect jobs and save our high streets.”
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
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