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CoronavirusHigh Street

High street retailers ‘urgently’ need government recovery plan, says Usdaw

Shopworkers union Usdaw has urged the government to agree with employers and trade unions a recovery plan for the high street as “thousands of further job losses are announced”.

The union said the scale of job losses across the retail industry is “accelerating” as the high street continues to struggle to recover from the impact of the coronavirus emergency.

The news comes as department store Harrods announced it is to cut around 700 jobs as it attempts to weather the storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic. John Lewis is also reportedly set to cut jobs in a bid to reduce its costs.

In a memo first seen by the Evening Standard, chairman Sharon White told 80,000 employees that it was “highly unlikely” the group would reopen all of its John Lewis stores.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary added: “The prime minister’s so-called ‘new deal’ fails to address the deep concerns of many shopworkers about their future job security. We welcome Keir Starmer’s focus on jobs. 

“What the retail industry needs is a tripartite approach of unions, employers and government working together to develop a recovery plan. We have long called for an industrial strategy for retail to help a sector that was already struggling before the coronavirus emergency.”

He added: “The government needs to level the playing field on taxation between online and the high street, reform business rates that are strangling so many businesses, as well as enable councils to breathe new life into town centres and make them community hubs.

“We have a choice here. Do we want to see the high street go to the wall, or do we want to save it? Retail is an important feature of our towns and cities, it employs three million people and we need a stimulus package to save the industry.”

Earlier this week, Usdaw marked 100 days of lockdown by calling for a new deal for workers, after the coronavirus emergency has shown that “millions of low-paid” and “undervalued workers” have “stepped up in the most difficult of circumstances”.

Usdaw said workers in retail, manufacturing, distribution and home delivery have been “working around the clock, keeping food on our tables and medicines in our cupboards” and have adapted to huge change in an extremely short time, working under intense pressure and providing a lifeline to our communities.

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