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Sunday trading extension defeated

Iain Dalton

Retail workers up and down the country will be celebrating the defeat of the government’s plans to devolve Sunday trading rules to local authorities. A majority of 31 voted down the government’s plans including 27 Tory MPs.

Cameron’s reaction to the vote has been to declare that the plans are ‘dead in the water’, but a number of Tory MPs have argued that the votes of the SNP, who opposed the changes, should not count given the new ‘English votes for English laws’ provisions. Scotland already has longer Sunday trading time.

This factor means that despite the Tories saying they will not reintroduce these proposals, with pressure from big business they may yet appear again. The vote on 9 March was, after all, the third attempt by the Tories to introduce such measures in the last five years.

Clearly the vote is a great result for Usdaw trade union members’ hard work in campaigning and lobbying in opposition to the government’s plan. But given that the vast majority of the big, urban local authorities are controlled by Labour, then serious opposition at that level – including a refusal to use powers, if granted, to extend Sunday trading – could have made this ‘dead in the water’ before now.

The task now is to use this victory to give confidence to retail workers to organise to halt the attacks on their terms and conditions, particularly on premium payments, that were stepped up in advance of this legislation possibly coming in.

Mobilising an active campaign for the TUC demand of a £10 an hour minimum wage, while defending hard won premium payments and campaigning for a minimum of time-and-a-half for all working on Sundays, must be the goal of Usdaw and other retail unions.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 March 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.