You may have heard that the UK Government are considering proposals to relax Sunday trading laws in order to boost the retail sector as the lockdown continues to be eased.
Labour is opposed to this, as is the trade union representing retail workers, USDAW.
The impact of the Coronavirus lockdown on shops and retail businesses has been huge – and we’re all eager to get back to normality as soon as we can.
And while a desire to help the retail sector in the wake of months of lockdown is no bad thing, there are mixed views on the effectiveness of relaxing trading rules, with many retailers and trade unions believing it would actually be counterproductive – simply meaning the long and respected compromise on Sunday trading would be done away with for no palpable gain.
Retail and shop workers have been key for many of us getting through this crisis safely. Many have worked long hours ensuring essential retail and food shops remain open and functioning throughout the biggest peacetime crisis this country has seen for generations. Surely, the last thing we need to be doing for them now is ensuring they lose the protection of Sunday trading laws – we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
Even before COVID-19, shop workers were often used to working long, difficult hours. They are often not well paid, in insecure employment with poor terms and conditions. Many face anger and harassment from customers – leading to USDAW running campaigns around protecting shop workers from violence from customers.
For a number of years, Usdaw has been calling for a Government strategy to support the retail sector, especially the non-food sector that is currently closed. The Government has instead on a number of occasions started a debate over Sunday opening hours.
Each time, USDAW union have shown that there is no credible economic case in favour of deregulating Sunday trading; and, on each previous occasion, the Government have backed off and withdrawn proposals to deregulate.
These current proposals would not provide any real help to the retail sector as it looks to how to recover from the crisis.