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Usdaw calls for an industrial strategy to tackle the crisis in retail at the Mirror's High Street Fightback campaign fringe meeting

Date: 25 September 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis has today called on the Government to develop a proper industrial strategy for retail in partnership with business, government and unions. Usdaw remains disappointed that the Government has not included a retail staff representative on their new panel to look at the future of the high street.
2018 has been a devastating year for many shopworkers. 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.

Speaking at the Mirror’s High Street Fightback campaign fringe meeting at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool, Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary said: “We absolutely welcome the Mirror’s High Street Fightback campaign, helping to highlight the massive challenges that retail is facing. In cities, towns and local communities we’ve seen retail businesses close and shops boarded up and restructuring at every level. What we haven’t seen is any real action from the Government, any clear or coherent strategy for the retail sector or any sense that they care about the worries and concerns of retail workers,

“Unbelievably retail jobs are still seen by some as not ‘real jobs’. Yet the retail sector employs nearly 3 million people, it contributes 11% to the UK economy and it’s the largest private sector employer in the UK. These are real jobs that millions of real workers and real families depend on to live.

“In some areas, shops are the major employer and when they close it has a huge impact on the local economy. So we need a proper industrial strategy for retail, developed in partnership with business, government and unions. We need to rework the economic framework; from taxation, to commercial rents, to business rates. We need to level the playing field between online and bricks-and-mortar retailers, but we also need to level the playing field for workers.

“Retail work shouldn’t be a byword for low pay and low hours. That’s why our Time for Better Pay campaign is calling for: £10 per hour minimum; a minimum contract of 16 hours per week for everyone who wants it; a contract based on an individual’s normal hours of work, and an end to the misuse of zero hours contracts.

“The voice of shopworkers must be heard when there are big changes in their workplace. We are seeing more and more restructuring, mergers, takeovers, and too often, the workers seem to be the last to know about these changes. They should be among the first to know and they should be properly consulted. Why is there no worker voice on the Competition and Markets Authority?

“Retail is at a turning point. Retailers, and government, need to make a choice between the short-termism of cuts, low pay and insecure work; or a long term strategy that makes practical changes and provides economic reforms, offers decent pay and secure jobs and changes attitudes towards retail work. Giving shopworkers the respect they deserve.”

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