Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis has called on the Labour Party Conference in Brighton to back Usdaw’s ‘Save our Shops’ campaign and for the next Labour Government to take urgent action to tackle the crisis on our high streets.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: 
“The retail sector, which is at the heart of our communities, is facing one of the most challenging periods in its history. In the last 10 years, nearly one million jobs have been lost on the high street. This crisis has seen the demise of household names like British Home Stores, Toys ‘R Us and Poundworld. At the same time, companies such as Debenhams, New Look and Marks and Spencer have been closing hundreds of stores. Just this week we have seen the collapse of Thomas Cook, which will see the closure of a further 600 stores. Another hammer blow to our high streets.

“Last year, 74,000 jobs were lost in the retail sector and more redundancies have been announced this year. If any other sector was facing this level of upheaval, there would quite rightly be a public outcry and Government action. That is not the case in retail. We must change that.

“We want Government action that protects High Streets at the heart of our communities. We want high streets that are community focal points within our towns and cities and we want shops that deliver high quality employment for the workforce. The biggest asset for any high street retailer is their staff and if the high street and shops are to survive they need to play to their strengths.

“So retailers must invest in the shop floor workforce. This isn’t just about better pay, which is an essential part. It is also about skills and training and it is about job security, guaranteed hours and shift patterns that fit with people’s lives.

“We need to tackle the structural issues which are crippling many high street retailers: A business rates system which penalises retailers for having shops on the high streets; a lack of decent public transport, meaning many people cannot access their town centres, and extortionate parking charges which are driving people to shop online.

“All these issues need to be tackled to level the playing field between online and ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retailers. Usdaw is calling for urgent action from Government to tackle the retail crisis. Usdaw wants a Labour Government that will tackle inequality, protect jobs and deliver a living wage. We want a Labour Government that will implement an industrial strategy for the retail sector that will support our high streets and save our shops.”

‘Save our Shops’ petition:

Usdaw’s industrial strategy for retail:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 410,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. 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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