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South West Labour Conference: Usdaw calls for action to 'save our shops'

Date: 14 February 2020 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is raising the ongoing retail crisis at the 2020 annual conference of Labour South West, which starts on Saturday 15 February in Bristol and runs through to Sunday.
In the past decade the number of people visiting high streets in the West Country has fallen by 22%. The West Country has also seen the largest increase in vacancy rates in the country - rising from 9.6% in 2016 to 11.2% today. That's equivalent to more than 2,700 vacant units - at least 880 of which have been empty for more than three years. Last year 57,000 jobs were lost in the retail industry across the UK, many of them in the South West and more redundancies have been announced this year already.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “2019 was the worst year for the retail sector since records began. In recent years we’ve lost household names like British Home Stores, Toys ‘R Us and Mothercare. At the same time, companies such as Debenhams, New Look and Marks and Spencer have been closing hundreds of stores.
“If any other industry was facing this level of upheaval, there would quite rightly be a public outcry and Government action, but that is not the case in retail. That’s why we launched our ‘Save our Shops’ campaign.
“Shops and shopworkers are undervalued, but they are at the heart of our communities. Staff are the biggest asset for any high street retailer, so they must invest in the shopfloor workforce. Of course that means better pay, but it also means skills and training, job security, guaranteed hours and shift patterns that fit with people’s lives.
“We need to tackle the structural issues facing the high street: Business rates that penalise high street retailers; public transport that makes it difficult for people to access their town centres, and extortionate parking charges. All these issues need to be addressed to level the playing field between online and ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retailers.
“An industrial strategy for retail must be a priority and we must hold this Government to account for its continued failure to address the growing crisis on our high streets in communities across the South West of England and across the UK.”
Usdaw’s ‘Save Our Shops’ campaign calls for urgent Government action with an industrial strategy for retail implementing policies like:
  • Review taxation, commercial rents and business rates to ensure a level playing field between ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers and online retailers, providing a new framework that supports local communities and the wider economy.
  • A minimum wage of £10 per hour for all workers, secure work and investment in skills and training to provide decent pay and job security for retail workers and drive up productivity.
  • Give retail workers a say over the future of retail and the introduction of new technology, with a designated inclusive body that ensures the Government recognises the crucial role retail has in the UK economy.
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 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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