Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis has written the Chancellor of the Exchequer outlining Usdaw’s key priorities for next week’s Budget on Wednesday 3 March 2021.

Usdaw is calling on the Government to address five key issues:

  1. Retail Recovery Plan to tackle the immediate crisis on our high streets, help save jobs and tackle long-term structural issues in the retail industry.
  2. Statutory Sick Pay to be increased to normal earnings, so that workers can afford to take time-off if they are ill or have to self-isolate.
  3. Universal Credit to retain the £20 weekly uplift, which has been an important financial help to many low-paid workers.
  4. Job Retention Scheme to be extended to the end of the year, giving business confidence while the economy recovers and job security for employees.
  5. Union Learning Fund to be continued to help reach the workers other schemes do not and engage them in learning.

The full letter can be viewed at: www.usdaw.org.uk/Budget2021

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“There is no doubt that the pandemic has raised many serious issues for working people, some new and others that have been around for a long time. So we are challenging the Chancellor to address these issues in the Budget by not just tackling the immediate problems, but making sure we build back better.

“Usdaw has long called for the Government and retailers to work together to develop an industrial strategy and recovery plan for retail. Nearly 180,000 retail job losses and around 20,000 store closures last year lay bare the scale of the challenge the industry faces. Each one of those job losses is a personal tragedy for the individual worker and store closures are scarring our high streets and communities. There are substantial issues that need to be addressed like rents, rates and taxation, to create a level playing field between high streets and online retail. Business also needs some certainty and extending furlough would help to save jobs. Also reform is needed so that workers receive at least minimum wage rates in furlough pay.

“The pandemic has highlighted the hardship low-paid workers face when they have to rely on Statutory Sick Pay. Even government ministers have been forced to admit that they couldn’t live on a mere £95.85 a week. Nearly two million workers do not earn enough to qualify for it and most of them are women. Never has it been so important for workers to take time-off when they are ill or self-isolating, defeating this pandemic relies on it. So the Government must make sick pay reflect average earnings to ensure workers can afford to take the necessary time-off work.

“There needs to be lasting and fundamental change to the way society views our lowest paid workers. We need a new deal for workers: a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour, an end to insecure employment, respect for shopworkers and action to ensure that retail jobs are no longer underpaid and undervalued. The temporary £20 weekly uplift in Universal Credit has been really important in these difficult times. Next week the Chancellor has the opportunity to make that increase permanent and give some assurance to millions of low income families.

“If the Government is serious about ‘levelling up’, they must understand that workplace learning provides a vital pathway to their Lifetime Skills Guarantee and is a proven way of engaging employers as well as employees. The world of work is changing rapidly and we understand it is more important than ever for workers to develop new skills, but making level three qualifications available does not address the issue for those who don’t have a level one or two qualification. We urge the Government to re-think their plans to scrap the Union Learning Fund, build on its strengths and make it a key part of their skills strategy. We hope the Chancellor will recognise its value, which reaches the workers other schemes do not.”

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 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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