Call me old fashioned but I believe that Sundays are a day for spending with family. Not long ago the Prime Minister said that his Government would be the most family friendly. Yet changes to Sunday trading laws will inevitably lead to less family time for thousands of people who work in the service industry. Shop workers surveyed by USDAW said that Sunday is the one day a week that they can sit down for a family meal, for parents it offers the only time to help their children prepare for a busy school week. It offers those who are Christian to attend church and others to take a well-deserved break. Many who already work the 6 hours trading on Sunday have said that irrespective of the Government’s promise of new protections they will come under immense pressure to work more on Sundays. No wonder 91% of the 100,000 retail staff surveyed by USDAW opposed longer trading hours. There is a real fear, especially for those with children or other caring commitments that turning down hours on Sunday will see them unfairly penalised for shifts in the week.
I believe that the extension of working hours on Sundays will also inevitably lead to cuts in pay. Premium rates of pay were introduced after the 1994 changes to Sunday trading laws. These are now being abandoned. Only last month Tesco announced that from July employees who work on Sundays will have a 25% cut in pay. Similarly last year the retail chain Next abolished a Sunday premium for staff who work on Sunday. These changes will inevitably see many retailers follow suit as they strive to increase profits, few of which will trickle down to those workers.
Far from supporting the struggling high street research by Oxford University shows that the displacement of spending form local convenience shops to large stores will lead to local job losses and would be the death knell for hundreds of small business owners across the country.
Let’s not forget also that 64% of British people describe themselves as Christians and there is no doubt that changes to the law will affect some workers’ ability to attend church. For this reason the Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Church of Wales , the Methodist Church, the United Reform Church and the Salvation Army all oppose the proposed changes.
This is not simply an issue about economics or wages or workers’ protections important as they are but it goes to the heart of our society which is underpinned by the sanctity of family life.
The current trading laws strike the right balance and voting against the Government’s proposal was the right thing to do.