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Wales TUC Special Congress 2021: Usdaw calls for a retail recovery plan, a new deal for workers and better health and safety enforcement

Date: 25 May 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw has a delegation of members and officials attending this year’s online Wales TUC Special Congress, which starts today and closes tomorrow.
Usdaw is calling for:
  • A retail recovery plan to tackle the growing crisis on our high streets.
  • Better sick pay as part of a post-pandemic new deal for workers.
  • Improved workplace health and safety enforcement. 
Nick Ireland – Usdaw Regional Secretary based in Cardiff says: “The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the already serious challenges facing retail across Wales. The deeply regrettable collapse of retailers including Debenhams, Arcadia and the Wales-based Laura Ashley had a devastating impact on the staff and on high streets at the heart of our communities. Even where businesses survive the crisis, the impact is likely to be felt by low-paid workers with restructuring and pressure on pay, working hours and other conditions.
“We recognise the £1.7 billion in crucial support has been delivered to businesses by the Welsh Government through local authorities, but there are key structural issues to address in order to support a retail recovery. So we are looking for the Welsh Government to develop an urgent plan by working with unions and businesses. It must go beyond the immediate crisis response to look at the wider and long-term pressures facing the sector, such as business rates, rents and lease agreements. It needs to include sustained investment in skills for retail workers to meet the challenges of automation and new technology. There also needs to be continued support for local authorities' investment in, and ownership of, their high streets.
“Statutory Sick Pay in the UK is simply not enough. State support should provide a safety net for everyone, however under the current system there is absolutely no safety net for low-paid workers. Higher earners, in more secure jobs, are much more likely to be covered by good company sick pay schemes, but the less you earn the more likely you are to lose out from illness.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, there is an increased urgency to reform sick pay for the long term, ensuring we have a real safety net for those who need it. Statutory Sick Pay must reflect the reality of workers’ lives and reach those who need it most. Usdaw is calling for SSP to be paid from day one, to all workers and at a rate that enables people to survive.
“The coronavirus crisis has further highlighted the need for effective enforcement of workplace health and safety standards and we applaud the efforts of trade union health and safety reps right across Wales. Retail workplaces have always faced specific risks because they are open to the public, something which has been highlighted by the requirement to enforce social distancing and the wearing of face coverings. Many public-facing workers are at significant risk from poor health and safety practices or a lack of enforcement.
“Therefore we want the Welsh Government and local councils to prioritise and properly fund environmental health enforcement, with officers required to consult with health and safety reps during investigations and all inspections followed up with health and safety reps to ensure that recommendations are acted on.
“Covid-19 has dominated all our lives and highlighted many important issues that we have campaigned on over many years. We have to ensure that those campaigns continue and that we build back better after the pandemic. So we send our fraternal greetings to conference delegates and wish them well in their discussions on how to improve the lives of workers across Wales.”
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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