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Sunday trading: Government blinks first
Iain Dalton, Usdaw Broad Left Chair
Leaked reports emerged in mid-June that the government was looking at relaxing Sunday trading legislation for a year. It was rumoured that this was be proposed very quickly in the government's Coronavirus Recovery Bill.
The current legislation means large retail stores can only open for six hours on a Sunday between the hours of 10am and 6pm, giving many retail workers one evening they know they can spend with their family.
Until this announcement, Usdaw, the shop and distribution workers' union, officially had a position of passivity in the face of the growing undermining of Sunday opening restrictions, such as several local authorities relaxing enforcement, and Morrisons blatantly opening for longer hours.
Fortunately, since that announcement, campaigning has been ramped up, with an online tool for members to write to MPs, and a survey of members.
The survey revealed that an overwhelming 92% of members are opposed to longer opening hours for large stores, while 51% wanted to work less hours on Sunday (only 3% wanted to work longer hours!)
It is this anger among retail workers which has led to the rebellion among backbench Tory MPs, and means these proposals are not going to be in the Coronavirus Recovery Bill now.
However, given that Boris Johnson has been stating to the press that "we will keep measures such as extending Sunday trading hours under review", to declare a conclusive victory is premature.
Equally concerning is Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis' emphasis on a "tripartite recovery plan", which sounds like a new version of partnership. The experience for Usdaw members of 'partnership working' over the last few decades has demonstrated that this is a recipe for putting the interests of employers first and those of retail workers last.
Usdaw must take an independent stance in defence of retail workers - demanding decent pay, terms and conditions, and backing that up with action where necessary.
Where companies enter crisis, we should demand they are brought into public ownership to save jobs, in line with Usdaw conference policy.
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