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Labour Conference 2023: Usdaw calls for action to address the challenges facing retail and improved access to lifelong learning

Date: 06 October 2023 Retail trade union Usdaw has a delegation of officials and reps attending the annual Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Sunday 8 to Wednesday 11 October. The union has submitted motions on workers’ access to education and skills training, along with addressing the challenges facing retail and our high streets.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Retail is at the heart of our communities but is facing growing challenges. The economic environment, combined with an inadequate employment rights framework, has put many jobs at risk.
“Usdaw’s ‘Freedom From Fear’ Campaign has also highlighted the horrific levels of abuse and violence faced by frontline retail workers and the need for meaningful action to tackle this. In addition, the increased use of technology across the sector is significantly impacting working practices, not just in terms of online retail but also the growing digitisation in stores.
“When taken together, retail workers are facing unprecedented challenges affecting every aspect of their working lives. We welcome Labour’s commitment to increasing security of work in their New Deal, including strengthening redundancy rights and protections, along with implementing for all workers the measures in the Scottish protection of workers law to help protect retail workers from abuse and violence.”
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. 
Paddy Lillis continued: “We recognise the importance of lifelong learning, skills development and training and the institutions and services that provide them. Workers having the right skills, as well as opportunities for lifelong learning, developing new skills, and retraining, is crucial to securing good jobs and adapting to a continually changing work environment. As such, the skills system is an important tool of Labour’s industrial strategy.
“Labour’s commitment to developing and supporting a modern skills system and recognition of the vital role of trade unions in encouraging workers to take up training opportunities is very welcome. We recognise the progress made by Welsh Labour through its responsive approach to skills and employability, including extra support for young people, low-paid workers and workers facing redundancy. We welcome Labour’s commitment to explore the lessons learned from these initiatives.
Usdaw is calling for Labour to ensure:
  • Support for the further education institutions and training providers that are crucial to the delivery of meaningful and effective lifelong learning for workers.
  • Workers have a right to paid time off for lifelong learning and training.
  • Reform of the Apprenticeship Levy into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy’ is focused on supporting all workers, especially those facing disadvantages in the labour market, to benefit from meaningful training and development opportunities.
  • Workers have a voice in decisions made, locally and nationally, about Labour’s skills strategy and how the skills budget is used. 
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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