Later today Labour will join forces with some Conservative backbenchers in a last-ditch attempt to block the government’s proposals to extend Sunday trading.
I know how important it is to spend time with my children on a Sunday. Labour politicians and trade unionists have campaigned for decades for workers to get a decent break at the weekend. Last Sunday, Church leaders in England and Wales came out against the changes.
We need to keep Sundays special, so that busy families have one day a week to spend together. The current law strikes a balance. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, and shop workers can spend time with their families. The rapid expansion in online shopping, means there is no compelling economic case for extending Sunday shopping hours.
The government’s plans will mean a postcode lottery for businesses, because the bill hands the decision to local councils and mayors. Different Sunday trading regulations in every council area will mean confusion for consumers and for businesses alike.
Retail workers don’t want the changes: USDAW, the shopworkers’ trade union, found that nine out of 10 oppose longer opening hours. Convenience stores don’t want the changes as they will lose the Sunday boost to trade. And independent shops are against the changes: their owners already work long hours, with Sunday being their only break. Some big retailers, such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco, oppose longer Sunday opening hours.
I spent two years as a Saturday girl at British Home Stores in the 1980’s. As a young woman living in recession-hit Coventry I relished the chance to work on a Sunday - for double pay. When I worked on a bank holiday, I got treble pay.
Life is different now. The retail industry has eroded workers’ rights, pay and conditions.
Over 5,000 people work in the sector in Wakefield. We have had the third lowest wage growth in the country since 2008. People work long hours just to pay the bills. The changes to Sunday shop opening hours will hurt families and have no strong economic case. I and my Labour colleagues will vote to keep Sunday special.
First published on 9th March 2016 on Politics Home