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London 2012: Union workers opposed to Sunday trading relaxation

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
1:08 PM

Union workers have said they are opposed to a proposed suspension of Sunday trading laws during the London 2012 Games.

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The shopworkers’ union Usdaw surveyed more than 20,000 of its members about the proposals to relax trading hours on Sundays during the Olympics and Paralympics.

Of those surveyed 77 per cent they were opposed to the temporary relaxation, with just 12 per cent saying they were in favour.

The union said workers felt a suspension of trading laws could have a detrimental effect on their work-life balance but the Department for Business said the measure was temporary, and that no one would be forced to work on a Sunday during the suspension.

Usdaw released its survey results following a meeting with Business Minister Mark Prisk yesterday, where representatives for the union put forward why they did not want a suspension of trading rules.

A bill on the suspension of trading laws is due to go before the government in the coming months. The union has deemed the bill “ill-thought through, rushed and desperately lacking a proper regulatory impact assessment”.

John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw, said: “Our members don’t want to lose the one day they get to spend some quality time with their families and they quite properly fear the very detrimental impact deregulation would have on their caring responsibilities and their ability to maintain any semblance of work-life balance.

“As many retailers are saying, the bill would impose extended opening times on the sector at a time when margins are being squeezed, consumer spending is weak and sales are flat-lining. The last thing retailers need this summer is increased overheads with little or no return.

“There is no evidence that extending Sunday opening hours will boost the economy or tourism and there has been little meaningful consultation with employers, employees and others. If there had been then I strongly suspect the bill would never have seen the light of day.

“If longer Sunday trading hours is such an important issue for the Olympics, it should have been addressed years ago, without the need to resort to last-minute legislation.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business said: “The Olympics present a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase London and the whole of the United Kingdom. By temporarily suspending Sunday trading laws we will enhance the visitor experience and provide a boost in sales and employment to the economy.

“Retail workers already enjoy strong employment protections around Sunday working, which are not shared by other sectors. Workers will keep all these protections, including the right to opt-out of Sunday working, so no employees will be forced to work a Sunday during the suspension.

“Usdaw have raised some valid concerns about the Sunday Trading Laws suspension, which is why Government is holding discussions with the Unions, retailers and employers’ groups before the second reading of the bill. The bill, which was announced in the Budget, proposes to suspend Sunday Trading Laws only temporarily.”

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