Jane Jones – Usdaw President said:
“It is so refreshing to be able to meet in person again here at the wonderful Winter Gardens, after three long years apart. Those three years have been tough. Tough for our union. Tough for our members and reps. Tough for working people.
“I know how tough it’s been for our members and reps because I am a rep in my store and being on the frontline we saw it all. It’s like we were transported to a new world. A world of furlough, masks, social distancing, self-isolation, rules and restrictions. For us, it certainly wasn’t a world of after work drinks, birthday parties and rule breaking.
“Our members need a strong union behind them more than ever. We all know that the cost of everything seems to going through the roof at the moment, petrol, electricity, gas, food, the list might as well be endless, and we know that many of our members are struggling to make ends meet.
“That’s why we need urgent action from the Government on the cost of living crisis. We need action to bring these costs back under control and we need a New Deal for Workers.
“Usdaw has always campaigned on the issues that matter to our members. Our New Deal for Workers campaign is a crucial part of that. Workers in this country need a pay rise. We need to tackle one-sided flexibility, with a minimum hours contract, a right to a normal hours contract and better terms and conditions, including increased sick pay and redundancy pay.
“I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made on this campaign, pushing through the £10 an hour milestone in Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Argos, amongst others, but there is still much more to do.
“We need to keep pushing for better pay that reflects the contribution we make. We need to win improvements to sick pay, so that workers don’t have to come to work when they’re ill just to make ends meet. We need stronger rights to flexible working, to make our workplaces more equal. We need proper protection against redundancy and unfair dismissal. Through the New Deal for Workers Campaign we will keep fighting for those rights.
“I hope to see as many as possible at the TUC march on 18th June, where we will be taking to the streets. We will be marching together to demand the New Deal that is so badly needed. Workers from every walk of life, from shopworkers, to posties, to nurses. Together we will make our message heard loud and clear – workers deserve better. We deserve a decent standard of living. We deserve better pay, better conditions and we deserve more respect.
“Respect is something that is often sadly lacking for those of us who work with the public. For all the warm words about us getting the country through the pandemic, for all the clapping on doorsteps, we still face abuse, threats and violence just for doing our jobs. So Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign has never been more important.
“The pandemic has seen further shocking and unacceptable growth in abuse, threats and violence against shopworkers and distribution workers. As if enforcing age-restricted sales wasn’t enough, trying to enforce social distancing and mask wearing was sometimes even worse. And of course, too often we were blamed by angry customers for those things. We were blamed for empty shelves as a result of supply chain issues and now we are even blamed for rising prices!
“As a result of our longstanding campaign on this issue, and the work of Daniel Johnson MSP, we now have a protection of workers act in Scotland. There was enormous pressure on the UK Government to follow suit and violence against workers is now a statutory aggravating factor for sentencing.
“Usdaw won’t rest, and I know that none of you will rest, until we have standalone legislation covering all our members on this vital issue. We also know there is a huge job to be done to encourage reporting of incidents, to make sure that every incident is taken seriously, to make sure that managers always back up their staff and to make sure that an appropriate police response is available when it’s needed.
"This Annual Delegate Meeting is the parliament of our union. When we stand up and move propositions, have debates and vote for propositions, that isn’t the end of the journey. It’s the start of the work. I’m looking forward to the next few days, the debates and the decisions taken in creating union policy.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion