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Why Usdaw is calling for a new deal for workers

Shopworkers deserve more than warm words after their sterling efforts during the coronavirus crisis, says PADDY LILLIS, general secretary of their union Usdaw

AS WITH everything this year, the Durham Miners’ Gala is going to be like no other and we send our fraternal greetings to all who will be participating in a virtual celebration of the trade union movement.

We look forward to the 2021 Gala returning, bigger and better than ever, in the 150th anniversary year.

Traditionally the Gala celebrates our achievements and looks to the battles ahead for working people and the trade union movement.

Unions have led the way in fighting for workers’ safety and rights throughout the coronavirus emergency, now we need to fight for a new deal for workers. 

This crisis has shown that millions of low-paid workers stepped up in the most difficult of circumstances to keep our country going.

Too many key workers are low-paid, with insecure hours and few employment rights.

Usdaw members in retail, manufacturing, distribution and home delivery have been working around the clock, keeping food on our tables and medicines in our cupboards. 

They have adapted to huge change in an extremely short time, working under intense pressure and providing a lifeline to our communities.

As we look past this appalling coronavirus pandemic, it is time for the government, employers and the public to recognise that these workers have been undervalued for too long. They deserve a new deal.

Usdaw is calling for a new deal for workers based around:

  • A minimum wage of £10 per hour for all workers
  • Recognition of the value of our key workers and help to relieve the financial burden faced by too many low-paid working people 
  • Minimum contract of 16 hours per week: an end to the use of short-hours contracts that do not benefit the worker. A minimum 16-hour contract, for those who want it, ensures that work is offered on a meaningful basis that can only be reduced through express agreement from the worker
  • Contract based on normal hours of work: those regularly working over their contracted hours should have them guaranteed in their contract; regular hours enable workers to plan their lives and finances.
  • Protection of workers legislation. Abuse, threats and assaults should not be part of the job. The current law fails to protect retail staff and the government must ensure stiffer penalties for those who abuse workers.
  • Improved sick pay provisions: workers should not face significant debt because of sickness. Usdaw is calling for statutory sick pay to be paid from day one and to reflect average earnings for all workers.
  • A proper social security system: universal credit has been besieged by problems ever since it was launched. Usdaw is calling for the five-week wait to be scrapped and for the system as a whole to be overhauled.
  • A voice at work: the government needs to promote trade union recognition, remove the current hurdles around statutory recognition and include trade union representatives on all business review bodies.
  • Job security: we need stronger protections against redundancy and dismissal, from day one of employment. We also need proper consultation about new technology and investment in skills so that workers are able to keep up in a changing workplace.
  • Fair treatment and equality for all workers: most underpaid front-line key workers are women. These essential roles have been undervalued and underpaid for too long. Female workers need equal pay and they need decent pay, along with new family friendly rights that support parents and carers to juggle work and family life.

Further information on Usdaw’s New Deal for Workers campaign can be found at: www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/A-New-Deal-for-Workers.

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