Addressing over 600 delegates participating in the conference virtually, Keir Starmer MP said:
“I’m so proud of the work Usdaw members do, day in, day out. Never has that been more important than in the last year, because workers in shops, manufacturing, home delivery and distribution have been in the frontline of this pandemic. You’ve kept people safe, kept food on our tables and kept medicines in our cupboards. On behalf of the Labour Party I want to thank you all for everything you’ve done over the last year.
“Now I want to work with you to build a better future. As we recover from this crisis we can’t go back to business as usual. We can’t go back to an economy based on insecurity, inequality and injustice; where the key workers we rely are at the back of the queue for higher pay and better conditions. We need to rebuild the foundations of our economy and forge a future that is centred on justice and security.
“Usdaw’s New Deal for Workers is exactly the kind of change we need. Higher pay and equal pay for all workers. A social security system that works and treats people with dignity. An end to ridiculously low sick pay, that’s been exposed by the pandemic. And real job security with stronger employment rights from day one and an end to zero-hours contracts.
“I’m also determined that this recovery rebuilds our retail sector and revives our high streets. 2020 was the hardest year for retail that anyone can remember. If 180,000 jobs had been lost in one year in any other sector, there would have been a national outcry. Instead the Conservatives have reacted with a shrug, even though another 200,000 retail jobs are predicted to be lost this year. We know the Conservatives don’t take retail jobs seriously, but Labour always will because Britain can’t recover if our shops and high streets are empty.
“The British people deserve so much better. We’re fighting to level the playing field between the high street and online businesses and fighting to protect family incomes. Labour has launched a commission on rebuilding high streets and I’m delighted that Paddy Lillis is going to be a member. The commission is going to look at how we can revive and rebuild our high streets and town centres.
“We won’t be able to turn around 10 years of Conservative neglect overnight. Neglect that has seen jobs lost, high streets hollowed out and has led to deep-rooted inequality and injustice; but we do have to start that work now. It will need the whole trade union movement, working alongside business, and a Labour Party that’s working under new leadership. I believe this country is crying out for change and that after the last year we owe it to the British people to build a recovery that rewards their sacrifices.”
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