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Shop workers lobby council against Sunday opening
Iain Dalton, Usdaw Leeds private trades branch vice-chair (personal capacity)
On 13 January, a deputation from the Leeds Private Trades branch of the shop workers' union Usdaw lobbied Leeds City Council, calling on them to oppose the government's deregulation of Sunday trading.
The government proposes to hand powers limiting the length of Sunday trading (currently six hours for larger stores) to local councils.
This could create a postcode lottery of terms and conditions. The process erodes Sunday premiums and places even more pressure on shop workers' right to opt out of Sunday working.
The Parliamentary Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, opposes these proposals and the threat of the SNP opposing it, alongside Tory rebels, meant the government temporarily shelved the plans.
However, the passing of legislation to block Scottish MPs voting on English laws as well as the Lib-Dems coming out in support means when the proposals are inevitably re-tabled they are much more likely to pass.
But if Labour councils pledge to refuse to use the powers, the whole bill could be scuppered. While a number of smaller councils have passed a model Usdaw resolution opposing the changes, many of the biggest councils so far have not.
Indeed, Manchester council, which is 100% Labour controlled, has even commissioned research into the economic benefits of extending Sunday trading!
Our deputation had a good response from Labour councillors, as well as a Green Party councillor who was a former Usdaw member. We even had the council leader speak to us.
Whether this is translated into opposing the proposals and pledging not to use powers to increase Sunday trading hours, we will wait to see.
For Usdaw members, these proposals will be a key test for Labour councillors. Council workers have been banging heads with local councillors over cuts affecting their jobs for years.
As the Tories devolution proposals progress, more groups of workers will come into collision with councillors who are not prepared to stick their necks out to defend workers' interests.
In The Socialist 20 January 2016:
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