Usdaw says government is wrong not to allow a free vote in Parliament today


The shopworkers’ union Usdaw has urged MPs to put family, sport and the Olympics first and vote against the suspension of Sunday trading laws.

Today the Tory-led coalition will attempt to force the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill through Parliament after just five hours consideration and debate in the House of Lords and by breaking with convention to deny its own MPs a free vote on the issue.

Usdaw says the vast majority of both shopworkers and retailers oppose the Bill, which if passed, will suspend the laws limiting the opening hours of large stores in England and Wales for eight Sundays, starting from 22 July.

On Friday, Usdaw accused the government of running scared of allowing a free vote on the Bill, a move the union said reflected the shambolic way the government has handled the issue and its failure to make a convincing business, social or sporting case for the suspension of Sunday trading laws during the Games.

Speaking on the eve of the vote in the House of Commons, John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said: “Usdaw members want MPs to put family, sport and the Olympics first tomorrow by voting against this ill-conceived and rushed piece of legislation. Its only cheerleaders are government and corporate interests who want to see a permanent deregulation of Sunday trading.”

“The vast majority of shopworkers don’t want to work extra hours on a Sunday and they quite rightly blame their increasingly difficult struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life on the twin demands for more flexibility and unsocial working hours. These demands also reduce the opportunity of workers and their children to participate in organised sports and leisure activities.”

“The suggestion that the success of the Games is anyway dependent on large shops in Lancaster or Lincoln being open for 168 hours a week rather than 150 is nonsense and an insult to both to the Olympic Games and a world city like London. Worse still, enabling people to go shopping during Olympic events is actually being put ahead of enabling families to watch and enjoy the Games together.”

“Ministers say shopworkers can opt out of Sunday working but while that right remains crucial, it won’t help the thousands who already work Sundays and may be pressurised into working extra hours against their will. Even those without fears about job security could face a stark choice of having to work the extra hours or lose pay by opting out of Sunday working entirely.”

“Ministers also claim it is only a temporary measure yet haven’t even ruled out making a move for full deregulation during this Parliament. Why would anyone accept such a weak ‘assurance’ when it amounts to little more than warm words from a government whose Leader and Deputy promised no top down reorganisation of the NHS, no increase in tuition fees and most notoriously, to make the UK the most family friendly country in Europe.”

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