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Labour Conference 2023: Usdaw and ACS highlight that high streets are at the heart of the everyday economy

Date: 09 October 2023 Retail trade union Usdaw has today joined with the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) at a Labour conference fringe meeting on High Streets: Heart of the Everyday Economy; highlighting the important role of local shops on high streets and neighbourhood parades.
The event was chaired by Executive Director of Politics at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Ryan Wain and featured a presentation from ACS chief executive James Lowman on the findings of ACS’ 2023 Community Barometer. Panellists also included: Sarah Owen MP, Shadow Minister for Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government and Richard Fleetwood, Sub-Postmaster, RF Retail.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary said: “Over the past decade we’ve seen high streets facing significant challenges, which have been further heightened by a cost of living crisis. The recent collapse of Wilko - and the loss of 12,500 jobs – is yet another example of the extent of the issues facing the sector and high streets, with many established retailers forced to cut jobs, close stores or collapse into administration. This is not just bad for workers but bad for the economy.
“Retail is at the heart of our communities and convenience stores in particular are so important, often acting as community hubs, as highlighted in the ACS report. We need to invest in and support our high streets – whether they are in cities, in towns or in suburbs. This is why Usdaw is proposing a comprehensive plan for the future of retail work.
“It’s clear that the current economic framework – from taxation, commercial rents to business rates – is not working for the retail sector. We need a new economic framework to replace a broken business rates system, with a view to levelling the playing field between online and stores, to help drive investment in good quality retail jobs.
“We need proper funding for local authorities, to make high streets places that people can access and that people want to visit; and we need better pay and secure work for retail workers with a new deal, including firm measures to tackle the growing problem of retail crime.
“In the past year retail thefts have shot up massively, with a 25% increase in police recorded shoplifting. As a result, our members in stores are having to cope with abuse on a daily basis. I’m pleased to say that Labour has already pledged to tackle a number of issues facing the sector - including introducing measures to protect shopworkers and it’s great to see so many stakeholders from across the industry committed to tackling the core issues facing the sector and retail workers.”
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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