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The Coronavirus emergency shows that we need a New Deal for Workers says Usdaw

Date: 01 May 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw is marking International Workers’ Day (1 May) by calling for a New Deal for Workers, after the Coronavirus emergency has shown that millions of low-paid and undervalued workers have stepped up in the most difficult of circumstances to keep our country going.
Workers in retail, manufacturing, distribution and home delivery have been working around the clock, keeping food on our tables and medicines in our cupboards. They have adapted to huge change in an extremely short time, working under intense pressure and providing a lifeline to our communities.

Usdaw is working to keep our members safe as they work through the crisis and support those who are not currently able to work. As the union looks past Coronavirus, it is time for the Government, employers and the public to recognise that these workers have been undervalued for too long. They deserve a new deal. Usdaw is calling for:
  • £10 minimum wage for all workers, ending rip-off youth rates and providing a living wage.
  • Minimum contract of 16 hours per week, for everyone who wants it, that reflects normal hours worked and a ban on zero-hour contracts.
  • Better sick pay for all workers, from day one, at average earnings.
  • Protection at work – respect for shopworkers, abuse is not a part of the job.
  • A proper social security system, Universal Credit does not provide the necessary safety net.
  • Job security, with day one employment rights for unfair dismissal and redundancy.
  • Fair treatment and equality for all workers, including equal pay.
  • A voice at work, stop rogue employers from refusing to engage with trade unions.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Millions of low-paid workers have always provided essential services to help ensure the country is fed, healthy and safe and the Coronavirus emergency brings that to public attention. Usdaw members employed in our supermarkets, distribution warehouses, food processing sites and home delivery operations welcome the weekly applause for key workers, but that respect and appreciation must not fade into the background when this national crisis passes.

“There must be lasting and fundamental changes to the way society views our lowest paid workers. We need a New Deal for the workers:  a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour, an end to insecure employment, respect for shopworkers and action to ensure that retail jobs are no longer underpaid and undervalued. It cannot be right that key workers in supermarkets, who are keeping our communities fed, are then visiting foodbanks to feed their own families.

“Usdaw’s ‘Impact of Coronavirus’ survey revealed that increased abuse in shops, higher rates of illness, greater levels of job insecurity and issues with the benefits system are putting immense pressure on many Usdaw members who are key workers. Too many key workers are low-paid, with insecure hours and few employment rights. They have been undervalued for too long and deserve a new deal.”

Usdaw’s New Deal for Workers:

£10 minimum wage for all workers – Many of the workers that our country relies on are low paid. The money that they earn doesn’t reflect the contribution that they make and it isn’t enough for a decent standard of living. We need a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour, not a few years down the line, but now. We also need to get rid of the rip-off youth rates that allow employers to pay young workers as little as £4.55 an hour. Every worker deserves a wage they can live on.

Minimum contract of 16 hours per week for everyone who wants it –. A higher minimum wage can only tackle low pay if workers also get the hours they need to get by. We know that some people will want to work just a few hours a week, and of course they should be able to do that, but for most people, a minimum contract of 16 hours a week will be a step forward. 

A ban on zero hours contracts - It is not acceptable for workers to be put on contracts that don’t guarantee them any hours at all. There is a real danger that, as the impact of Coronavirus begins to show on the economy, more workers will feel forced to take zero hours contracts as they have no other options. The government needs to ban zero hours contracts, once and for all.

A ‘normal hours’ contract – Short hours or flexible contracts are very common in retail.  Many workers are regularly working far more hours than they are contracted to, but the employer can just reduce them back down to contracted hours whenever they want to. This isn’t a fair deal, because the flexibility is all in the employer’s favour. If you are regularly working over your contracted hours, we believe they should be guaranteed in your contract. This will help workers to plan their finances and feel more secure.

Better sick pay – People who are ill shouldn’t be worrying about their finances, and they shouldn’t be forced into work when they are sick so they can pay their bills. The minimum sick pay that employers have to pay is statutory sick pay – that’s just £95.85 per week. It isn’t normally paid for the first three days of sickness (although it has been paid from day one of sickness as a temporary measure during the Coronavirus outbreak). If you earn less than £118 per week, you aren’t entitled to any statutory sick pay. All of this needs to change. Sick pay needs to be paid from day one, at your normal pay rate, and it should be paid to all workers.

Protection at Work – Nobody should go to work in fear, but that’s the reality for many retail and delivery workers. Violence and abuse have doubled during the current crisis. It’s never acceptable at any time, and that’s why we are calling for better legal protection, urgently. We need a new law that makes it a specific offence to assault public facing workers, with a sentence that fits the crime. The Government needs to show that it takes retail workers’ safety seriously.

A Proper Social Security System – The Coronavirus crisis has shown that anybody can find themselves needing help. Lots of workers have had to claim Universal Credit. This system can be really difficult to navigate and after many years of cuts, it does not provide the safety net that families need. People who are struggling simply cannot afford to wait five weeks for their payment. Many are being pushed deeper into poverty. We need a fair system that protects families and treats people with dignity.

Job Security – Many people are facing real worry about their job security in this crisis. For retail workers, this isn’t 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 don’t 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 mind the kids. We need new family friendly rights that give parents and carers real choices to support juggling work and family life.

A Voice at Work - This crisis has shown that workers need their union more than ever. Usdaw has worked with employers to improve protections for workers, to agree bonus payments to recognise their contribution, and to protect those whose workplaces have had to close. It was the trade union movement negotiating with government that produced the Job Retention Scheme which has saved so many jobs. Some employers continue to refuse to listen to trade unions. We need stronger trade union rights so that all workers can benefit from a voice at work.

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.
Usdaw’s ‘Impact of Coronavirus’ survey of 7,357 members took place online and looks at a 34 day period from 14 March. The full results of the survey are available at: www.usdaw.org.uk/CoronavirusReport
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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