John Hannett writes:
As the union representing retail workers across the United Kingdom, Usdaw is extremely concerned at the enterprise bill amendment which would devolve the power to set the hours of Sunday trading for large stores to local authorities.
This would lead to a ‘domino effect’ with longer Sunday opening spreading across the country, having a detrimental impact on the UK’s three million retail staff and their families, on small stores, and on communities, as Sundays become like any other day.
When the government put forward its first proposals last summer, we commissioned an independent company to do a survey of over 10,000 of our members and how they felt about Sunday working.
The survey revealed the extent of weekend working and the pressure our members already face.
Seventy-four per cent of staff already work on Sundays, with 43 per cent of Sunday workers working every Sunday, for an average of 7.1 hours.
Eighty per cent of staff work on Saturdays, with over half of all staff working every Saturday.
Fifty-eight per cent of staff in large stores are under pressure to work more on Sundays, however only six per cent want to work more hours on Sundays, and 35 per cent want to work less.
Even with just 6 hours of opening, and almost three-quarters of Usdaw members getting premium pay for working Sundays, more than a third of staff in large stores are already working more hours on Sundays than they want to, and the majority are under pressure to work even more.
The government claim that the right to opt out of Sunday working means that no staff will have to work extra on Sundays if hours are extended.
However, because of the pressure to get Sunday staff, even now a third of requests to opt out are unsuccessful.
Many workers are unable to opt out, as they cannot afford to have their hours cut, or worry that they will lose out on overtime, have holiday requests refused, or be prevented from progressing in their job.
It is not only retail workers who will be impacted by the changes.
For national retailers, the prospect of 306 different local authorities with the power to change Sunday opening hours, and to have different opening times on different dates, presents a logistical nightmare.
And small stores will lose the boost they receive on Sundays, threatening the viability of some local stores.
There is a wider impact on communities too – if all shops can open all hours on Sundays, people in other sectors will be required to work more, and our collective day of rest, when families and communities can come together, will be eroded.
The current Sunday trading rules are a fair compromise, which works well and is supported by a great majority of the public.
Retailers can trade, customers can shop, and staff can work; while Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family.
This compromise must be protected.