Retail Workers Demand New Deal on Pay, Employment Standards & Skills to Help Rebuild the Sector

16 Dec 2020

A New Deal for Retail

Retail & Distribution workers in Northern Ireland are demanding a ‘new deal’ that will tackle low pay and insecure work and help rebuild the sector in the aftermath of the Covid 19 pandemic, as part of a new campaign launched by trade unions representing workers across the sector. 

A New Deal for Retail & Distribution Workers (see below) sets out the key measures needed to restore and rebuild the sector across the island after the pandemic, by tackling serious issues around low pay, working conditions and poor job quality that have been exposed by the health emergency. 

The campaign is backed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ Retail Sector Group, which comprises unions representing workers in Retail & Distribution in both jurisdictions on the island, including: USDAW, Unite, GMB, Siptu and Mandate. 

A New Deal for Retail & Distribution Workers calls for the establishment of a Retail Stakeholder Group composed of trade unions, retail employers and key government departments that would be tasked with devising a blueprint for the Retail & Distribution sector to help it recover after the pandemic. 

The campaign document states that workers in the sector can “no longer afford the price of the low pay and insecure work” and that a new deal must embrace Decent Work standards as a key priority, including improved pay and conditions, trade union representation and with access to training and upskilling.

Rebuilding the sector post-pandemic and ensuring fair competition between online trading and the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ high street model will require significant financial and policy assistance from the authorities north and south, according to the document. 

Trade unions and workers must play ‘an integral role’ in developing a blueprint and a ‘future-proofed model’ for the retail and distribution sector. Given the essential roles played by Retail & Distribution workers during the pandemic, there is a strong desire for progressive change to employment standards within the sector. 

Workers will not support “a return to business as usual and to the old, failed model,” the campaign document points out. 

The Congress Retail Sector Group will be making contact with all political parties and groupings in Northern Ireland to seek their support for the New Deal document and proposals. 

Speaking in support of the campaign, USDAW Area Organiser Nicola Scarborough said: “The pandemic exposed how essential service workers in Retail & Distribution are among the lowest paid and least well protected. They deserve and are rightly entitled to far better. As we move to rebuild the sector in the aftermath of the pandemic and brace for the impact of Brexit, we need to put Decent Work standards front and centre of that process." 

Siptu's Niall McNally said: "Workers in the sector are also facing challenges in respect of online trading, automation and the wide range of new skills that will be required into the future. If we are to rebuild the sector in a sustainable manner, we need to prioritise the creation of good quality jobs. The time for promises and applause is past. Now is the time to deliver a New Deal for workers in the sector.”

A New Deal for Retail & Distribution Workers can be downloaded here: