Shopworkers’ union calls for retail recovery plan

Paddy Lillis

Retail trade union Usdaw has urged the Chancellor to announce an urgent recovery plan for the retail industry in Wednesday’s economic statement.

Usdaw wants trade unions and retail employers involved in the plan’s development, and for it to include:

  • Fundamental reform of business rates, with an assurance that the rates review the Government promised earlier this year won’t be delayed further.
  • An immediate and comprehensive review of rental values and lease arrangements. The union seeks short-term measures to prevent commercial landlords taking legal action for rental defaults during the lockdown period. In the medium term, it is calling for a rebalancing of the relationship between landlords and tenants.
  • Reform of UK tax law to ensure that companies pay their “fair share” of tax through tackling tax avoidance and the use of offshore havens, with the aim of creating a level playing field between online and high street retailers.
  • Funding for local authorities so they can invest in their local economy, transport networks and high streets.
  • Investment in skills for retail workers, including through union learning and high-quality apprenticeships.
  • A new deal for retail, distribution and home delivery workers based around a real living wage and guaranteed hours.

Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis (pictured) commented: “The Government’s response to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus emergency on the retail industry, in the form of small business grants, business rates relief and VAT deferral, has helped take some pressure off. However, these interim measures will not sustain the industry for long. The Government needs to adopt an urgent retail recovery plan and the Chancellor has the opportunity to announce that in this week’s economic statement.

“What the retail sector needs now is a tripartite approach of the Government, unions and employers to develop a much-needed retail recovery plan. We have long called for an industrial strategy for retail to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency. Now the situation is much worse.

“The Government has a clear choice. Do they want to see the high street go to the wall, or do they want to help 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.”