On Wednesday 13th January, a deputation from the Leeds Private Trades branch of Usdaw lobbied Leeds City Council, calling on them to oppose the government’s de-regulation of Sunday trading.
Iain Dalton, Usdaw Leeds Private Trades branch vice-chair (personal capacity)
The government proposes to hand powers limiting the length of sunday trading (currently 6 hours for larger stores) to local councils, potentially creating a post code lottery of terms and conditions as the process erodes Sunday premiums and places even more pressure on shopworkers right to opt out of Sunday working.
The Parliamentary Labour Party, now under Jeremy Corbyn, is opposing these proposals and the threat of the SNP opposing it, alongside Tory rebels, meant the government has temporarily shelved the measures. However, the passing of legislation to block Scottish MP’s voting on English laws as well as the Lib-Dems coming out in support means when the proposals are inevitably re-tabled it is much more likely to pass.
Yet here Labour councils have a key role, if they pledge to refused to use the powers the government proposes to give them over Sunday trading, the whole bill could be scuppered. Whilst a number of smaller councils have passed a model Usdaw resolution opposing the changes, many of the biggest councils have not done similarly so far.
Indeed, Manchester council, which is a 100% Labour controlled council, has even commissioned research into the economic benefits of extending Sunday trading!
Our deputation met with 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! (although the secretary of her ward labour party was part of our deputation). Whether this is translated into opposing the proposals and to go further a pledge not to use any powers to increase Sunday trading hours we wait to see.
For Usdaw members, these proposals will be a key test of what role Labour councillors play. Whilst council workers have been jarring heads with local councillors over cuts affecting their jobs for some years, as the Tories devloution proposals progress, more groups of workers can come into collision with councillors who are not prepared to ‘stick their necks out’ to defend workers interests.