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Usdaw calls on Government to drop plans to suspend Sunday trading laws during the Olympic and Paralympic games

Date: 24 April 2012 Delegates at Usdaw's Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) have reaffirmed the Union's opposition to the deregulation of Sunday trading and called on the Government to drop plans to suspend Sunday trading laws during the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

In a passionate debate at the Union's ADM in Blackpool, delegate after delegate spoke out against the proposals and the detrimental impact deregulation would have on their family life and the ability of shop and distribution workers to maintain a semblance of work-life balance.

Delegates are proud the UK is hosting the Olympics, but speakers were dismissive of Government assurances that the proposed suspension for the Games was not a prelude to total deregulation. Delegates clearly felt any suspension was the thin end of the wedge and an attempt by the Tory-led Coalition to deregulate Sunday trading by the backdoor.

Speakers complained that the Government had provided no evidence that the suspension would help jobs, growth or tourism and pointed out that it would be existing staff who would be pressured into working longer and more unsocial hours. Deregulation would also further accelerate the erosion of premium rates of pay for working Sundays and other unsocial hours.

Small retailers are opposed to the proposals and many large retailers are also against them because they understand that, for the vast majority of them, takings would remain the same but overheads would be pushed up, at a time when margins are already being severely squeezed.

Delegates heard that Usdaw has again written to MPs and to all members of the House of Lords to urge them to vote against the proposals and that thousands of Usdaw members have already contacted their MP to do the same.

Rounding up the debate, John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:

"At last year's ADM we were encouraging members to respond to the Government's Red Tape Challenge consultation on the deregulation of Sunday trading. Members responded in their thousands and the Tories retreated, admitting that the majority of respondents to the consultation did not want further deregulation. Yet, here we are again with another attempt to deregulate."

"For some reason, the Government have decided that during the most important world festival of sport, what the general public really wants to do is go shopping. As a result, Usdaw members' right to family time on a Sunday is once again under threat. Usdaw wants to see a successful Olympics, but there is no need or widespread demand for extended Sunday trading in the run up to and during the Games."

"Usdaw members, like anyone else, have a right to enjoy the Olympics and shopworkers have a right to have family time on a Sunday protected by limits on Sunday trading."

"Despite the fact that shopworkers, the public and many businesses are opposed to the proposals, the Government is ploughing on with their ill thought out and rushed legislation. We will do everything possible to oppose this latest attempt to deregulate Sunday trading and will continue to campaign during the next two weeks as the legislation is discussed in Parliament."

Notes for Editors:

1. A survey of over 20,000 Usdaw members conducted after the Chancellor's Budget in March found that:

  • 77% opposed the suspension of Sunday trading laws for eight Sundays during the Olympic Games this summer. Just 12% said they were in favour of suspension.
  • 48% said they come under pressure from their employer to work Sundays.
  • 71% said they would come under more pressure to work Sundays if shops were allowed to open for longer.

A similar survey conducted by Usdaw in 2011 found that 47% of members have caring responsibilities for children, elderly relatives or others that make it difficult to work on a Sunday.

2. A Gfk/NOP survey carried out in 2010 found that 89% of the public were opposed to any relaxation of the Sunday Trading laws.

3. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing trade union with over 415,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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