Valerie attends launch of Usdaw’s Industrial Strategy for Retail

The crisis of shop closures facing town centres across the country, including Walsall, is having a negative impact on both local communities and the wider UK economy. To combat this, Usdaw launched their Industrial Strategy for Retail at an event I attended in Parliament on Wednesday 5 June 2019.

Speakers at the launch event, chaired by Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, included Rt Hon John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, Alison Phillips of the ‘High Street Fightback’ campaign, and Bill Grimsey, businessman and retail expert.

The Strategy recognises that retail workers are a fundamental and integral part of the UK economy and wider society.  3 million people are directly employed by the retail sector and a further 1.5 million jobs rely on the industry, making it a fundamental part of the UK economy.

As is one of the UK’s largest trade unions, Usdaw has over 420,000 members in retail, transport, warehousing, distribution and food manufacturing. Aiming to ‘Save Our Shops’, their Industrial Strategy for Retail is based on three main strands:

Economy and Community

  • Fundamental reform of business rates.
  • A review of town/city centre parking charges and other transport issues.
  • An increased community focus from local authorities to improve town centre footfall. This needs to involve a range of measures such as tackling the issues of anti-social behaviour in town centres, as well as pursuing more creative measures to attract shoppers.

People and Productivity

  • Minimum pay of £10 per hour for all workers irrespective of age.
  • A commitment from employers and Government to invest in skills within the retail sector. This should include sustained investment in skills for workers affected by automation, including through union learning ad high quality apprenticeships.
  • Legislation to ensure that workers have guaranteed seats on the Boards of large companies, with the same duties and responsibilities as other Directors. Measures should be put in place to ensure that such seats reflect the gender breakdown of staff across the company.

Changing Perceptions – retail jobs are real jobs

  • Increased focus on retail across Government policy and decision-making mechanisms.
  • Promotion and recognition of the benefits of working in retail to help develop talent and increase retention levels – retail offers employees greater flexibility than most sectors, often allowing people to work around their family/caring commitments of studies.

The publication of Usdaw’s Industrial Strategy for Retail aims to convince the Government to take urgent action to combat the challenges faced by the retail sector. You can find out more about Usdaw and their #SaveOurShops campaign here.