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Labour conference supports Usdaw’s call to address the challenges facing retail and the high street

Date: 10 October 2023 Retail trade Usdaw has today welcomed the support of Labour’s annual conference for a plan to address the challenges facing retail and high streets. Usdaw’s motion was composited with one from the GMB trade union, who sought to highlight the injustices Wilko workers suffered when their company collapsed into administration, resulting in all stores being closed down.
Conference backed Usdaw calls on Labour to:
  • Ensure that the importance of the retail sector and our communities’ high streets is reflected in Labour’s industrial strategy, emphasising the need to protect jobs, deliver growth and provide security of employment.
  • Deliver on the strongest possible legal protections for frontline retail workers as soon as possible.
  • Establish a taskforce to deal with the challenges of new technology and automation as a matter of urgency, in order to protect jobs and to make sure that the economy is well positioned to adapt. 
Addressing delegates in Liverpool, Jane Jones – Usdaw President said: “I am proud to be a retail worker. There are three million of us, working hard every day and serving our communities, while doing our best to make ends meet. We do essential work, in tough conditions, but too often our jobs are treated as disposable; by employers, administrators, and the Government.
“Usdaw stands in solidarity with every Wilko worker, with their union GMB and with all workers who fear for their future. Wilko was the latest in a long line of retail collapses. Each one devastating for workers, their families and their communities.
“Back in 2009 we lost Woolworths and with it 27,000 jobs. Usdaw fought for our members, all the way to the European Court of Justice. We fought against the loopholes that cheated our members out of proper consultation and I’m proud to say that Labour has pledged to close those loopholes in Government. 
“Where the Tories have failed to act, Labour will step up. Not just to make work more secure, but also to keep retail workers safe. Nobody should ever face abuse and violence for doing their job. I’m delighted that Labour will introduce a new standalone offence of violence and abuse against shopworkers in England and Wales. Mirroring the protections Scottish Labour has already won. That’s the difference a Labour Government can make.
“Labour understands the importance of retail workers within our communities and that is why retail must be at the heart of Labour’s industrial strategy. It must be a core part of Labour’s vision for a better Britain. With a comprehensive plan for the future of retail work. With a new economic framework to replace the broken business rates system. With better pay, secure hours and stronger redundancy rights for retail workers, and for all workers, through Labour’s New Deal.
“We need a Labour Government that reverses Tory neglect, by investing in our High Streets. A Labour Government that values retail work and retail workers, not just now but in the future, and that means we must address the challenges of new technology.
“Automation, artificial intelligence and big data are all changing the world of work, in retail and across all sectors. We have to start planning for these changes, not when Labour is in government, but now. That’s why we need an urgent taskforce to look at investment in skills and training, with proper safeguards to protect workers, deliver economic growth and make the future of work fair and just for all.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 350,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades www.usdaw.org.uk
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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