Retail trade union Usdaw has urged the Government to sit down with employers and trade unions to agree a recovery plan for the high street.
The call came as Usdaw gave oral evidence to the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee enquiry into the impact of coronavirus on businesses and workers.
The union had previously submitted written evidence.
Speaking at the select committee hearing (18 June), Tony Dale – Usdaw Head of Research said: “Some sections of retail are surviving ok in the crisis, like food and online retail, but the high street is going to struggle to recover. One of the things we need to look at is that certain sectors of retail are going to return more slowly and we need to think about whether they should get more support under the job retention scheme because it’s going to take quite a significant amount of time before the high street returns to what it was.
“We are concerned that there are discussions going on that don’t involve the workforce or the trade unions. The clearest example of that is this idea leaked to the press that extending Sunday trading hours will save the retail sector, which it won’t. There needs to be a more serious tripartite approach of unions, employers and Government sitting down talking about what a retail recovery plan will look like.
“There is going to be an issue about consumer confidence about returning to the high street, which will reduce takings, so retailers will need to have a significant part of the workforce on furlough. Increasing employer contributions to the Job Retention Scheme, or ending it altogether, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We’ve got serious concerns that there could be widespread redundancies sparked by that additional business cost.
“We have a choice here. Do we want to see the high street go to the wall, or do we want to save it? Retail is an important feature of our towns and cities, it employs three million people and we need a stimulus package to save the industry.”