Shocking statistics released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show that the number of workers in retail companies has fallen by 85,000 in the past year. Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw calls for immediate government action to tackle the crisis on our high streets and for and an industrial strategy for retail to help ‘Save our Shops’.

A BRC study reveals that full-time and part-time retail employment is lower than a year ago and the number of hours worked also fell, which is in stark contrast to the UK’s labour market as a whole. The BRC expects the long-term decline in employment to continue amid weak consumer spending and fierce competition in the industry.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary said:
“We share the concerns of the retail employers and we’re calling for a number of key measures to tackle the crisis on our high streets, including a reform of business rates to help level the playing field between online and ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers. This is not about favours from Government, it’s about fairness across all forms of retailing.

“With the scale of job losses we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend this isn’t happening. The retail sector is experiencing turbulent and challenging times. Employing around 3 million people it contributes 11% to the UK economic output; so it is clear that the challenges affecting the retail sector have a huge knock on effect, impacting the UK economy and a significant number of workers.

“The Government has so far failed to provide any clear or coherent strategy for the retail sector, or to address the worries and concerns of retail workers. We urge the Government to engage with us, support our strategy and give shopworkers a voice in the future of retail.”

Helen Dickinson – BRC Chief Executive said:
“Weak consumer demand and Brexit uncertainty continue to put pressure on retailers already focused on delivering the transformation taking place in the industry.

“While MPs rail against job losses in manufacturing, their response to larger losses in retail has remained muted. The Government should enact policies that enable retailers to invest more in the millions of people who choose to build their careers in retail.

“In order to promote innovation, training and productivity, Government must reform both the broken business rates system, and the inflexibilities of the apprenticeship levy.”

Usdaw’s ‘Save Our Shops’ petition: We call on the Government to take urgent action by adopting an industrial strategy for retail and implementing the following comprehensive and co-ordinated policies:

  • Review taxation, commercial rents and business rates to ensure a level playing field between ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers and online retailers, providing a new framework that supports local communities and the wider economy.
  • A minimum wage of £10 per hour for all workers, secure work and investment in skills and training to provide decent pay and job security for retail workers and drive up productivity.
  • Give retail workers a say over the future of retail and the introduction of new technology, with a designated inclusive body that ensures the Government recognises the crucial role retail has in the UK economy.

Save or 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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