Government defeated on Sunday Trading

cwathen
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Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

The Government today were defeated on proposed amendments to Sunday trading laws which would have allowed larger shops to trade for longer. As someone who has worked in some form of retail business for well over a decade, I'm apparently supposed to be 'relieved' at this defeat because it apparently will preserve Sunday as a special day for me. Yet I'm not. Without getting into the politics of whether or not it's hypocrisy that the defeat was aided by SNP MPs when Scotland does not have the same restrictions on Sunday trading that England and Wales do, I disagree with Sunday trading restrictions entirely.

Firstly, I very much disagree with any employee (and I'm an employee too, I'm not trying to speak from above here) willingly entering an industry in the full knowledge of practices that exist and then trying to hide behind technicalities that will allow them to avoid engaging in those practices. With retail, the only people I have any sympathy with when it comes to Sundays is people who have been in the industry pre-1994 and joined it in the genuine belief that they wouldn't have to work them. For everyone else (which will be the vast majority of the workforce after more than 20 years) they entered an industry which operates on Sundays and so it is reasonable to be expected to work them and to expect that hours of work may change as they may change on any other day of the week.

That said, regardless of what I think anyone in retail who feels strongly about Sundays does actually have the right to opt out of working them. Under the Employment Rights Act, retail staff (styled 'shop workers') have a right to refuse to work on a Sunday. This is a protected right which supersedes anything written into a contract (even if the employee has willingly signed a contract agreeing to work them), and anything even vaguely whiffing of reprisals for exercising that right can land the employer in a lot of hot water. I'm not aware of any attempt to withdraw that right as part of this proposal, and so those who have an issue with the change could opt out and get every Sunday off if they wanted to.

Furthermore, the idea that the current Sunday trading laws somehow afford retail workers a 'special day' on Sunday doesn't really cut much ice. The most common hours of 10AM-4PM might well provide a shorter working day, but the best part of the day (including the most common time for religious observance...as well as Sunday lunch with your Gran) is still taken up by work anyway...shaving an hour or so off at either end for the average worker doesn't make it akin to a day off.

And finally, the current legislation doesn't cover smaller premises - which include the bulk of SMEs and by not covering them it effectively doesn't work as a way of protecting the workforce anyway. I've experienced working for both small and large businesses, and I've found advantages and disadvantages to both. But one huge disadvantage to working for an SME is the lack of any proper HR. You are often working for people who have invested huge amounts of time, money and personal risk to make the business what it is and expect their employees to do the same. They often have little to no understanding of employment rights (often relying on generic contracts and internet advice) and they often care even less. If there is any sector of retail which most needs regulation and in which the workforce most needs rights, it is SMEs. Yet because they will typically have premises smaller than that which get regulated under current legislation, they are free to set whatever Sunday trading hours they see fit anyway.

And all of this is before you start dealing with the issue that those working the restricted Sunday hours themselves are disadvantaged on a Sunday by not being able to go to any other larger retailers before/after work since everyone is open for about the same hours!
barcode
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I know many people who work in Asda, Tesco or other supermarkets and there dont get any extra money working a Sunday. Bus Drivers don't really get extra money, and some have no choice but have to work every 3rd Sunday. What about all the Call centre staff who shifts are Sunday to Wednesday? no extra money here.

In Glasgow and Livingston Sundays are one of the most busiest shopping days. The SNP really are doing this to cause trouble for DC.
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WillPS
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I completely agree with you Cwathen.

Sunday trading laws as they stand suit the supermarkets and large retailers down to the ground. Those 6 hours they are limited to are generally the busiest 6 individual hours across the whole week. If they are to open longer hours, and without the arbitrary 6 hour limit they'll have no choice but to do that as the market demands, they'll likely see a very modest increase in their Sunday takings but will have to man counters, tills, kiosks as well as have the full set of lights on for at least double the amount of hours they do now. That's not to say they'll need double the amount of hours, obviously some can be thinned out, but definitely there'll have to be more.

For my mind, it is a halfway house which benefits the consumer slightly and the business a lot. It doesn't benefit staff at all. I would actually prefer enforced all day closure over the ridiculous rules we currently have.
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cwathen
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The Hypocrisy of various parties here is astounding.

Particularly in the case of the SNP and the FSB.

Why exactly would the SNP be against relaxations of Sunday trading restrictions in England and Wales despite having no desires to introduce any Sunday trading restrictions at all in Scotland where they are the party of government - can they honestly keep a straight face whilst claiming this was anything other than an attempt to make some sort of 'You need to keep us sweet Dave, we can fuck shit up' point? Whilst there was Tory dissension (indeed it started with Tory dissension), ultimately if the SNP kept their beak out of this the defeat wouldn't have happened.

The FSB is vehemently championing the retention of what it calls a 'great British compromise which allows families to spend time together' despite representing retailers which have no wish at all to be part of any compromise nor to allow their employees a special day as the opportunity to increase business through lack of competition when larger retailers are forcibly restricted is too big an opportunity to lose - I don't see many corner shops doing 10AM-4PM on a Sunday, they pretty much all trade for their standard hours.

Then we have various statements about 'the erosion of Sunday as a special day' as if we were in a 1993 debate about opening at all, not a 2016 debate about opening longer.

As I said in my first post, many people are trying to claim a victory for the staff - but only if they happen to work in a building large enough to qualify for restriction - why should a till boy in a big Tesco store get a guaranteed short day on a Sunday but someone doing exactly the same job (arguably a harder job actually) at a McColls not get this? And indeed, why should staff who want the opportunity to work longer and get paid more for doing so be denied that opportunity?

The 1994 act was itself a stopgap cludge which sought to keep all sides happy by pissing everyone off a little bit rather than entirely - the real campaigning leading up to it was between retention of the then status quo (no sunday trading at all) or total deregulation. I've just done a bit of Googling of news articles at the time of the December 1993 vote and the amout of religious diatrabe surrounding it was very high, perhaps a reminder of what a different time it was.

The early 90's was also a very different retail environment, for one thing this was before the supermarkets themselves started having huge estates of small format stores which fell under the 3000 sq ft limit and so weren't restricted.

I'm shocked firstly that it took so long to have a serious discussion on changing the law, and secondly that apparently it's been decided that a compromise solution made 22 years ago is how things will continue ad infinitum, with no immediate plans to try changing things again.
DTV
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cwathen wrote:Why exactly would the SNP be against relaxations of Sunday trading restrictions in England and Wales despite having no desires to introduce any Sunday trading restrictions at all in Scotland where they are the party of government - can they honestly keep a straight face whilst claiming this was anything other than an attempt to make some sort of 'You need to keep us sweet Dave, we can fuck shit up' point? Whilst there was Tory dissension (indeed it started with Tory dissension), ultimately if the SNP kept their beak out of this the defeat wouldn't have happened.
As eloquent as the rest of the post is put, you have answered your own question there. The SNP's only motive for voting it down is that they could, it would annoy the government and make the government look weak. While pissing off the Conservatives is never a bad mark in my book, whether or not they were right to do so is another matter. Ultimately the SNP went into the last election expecting to exert some influence in a Labour minority government and ended up stranded on the opposition benches where they spent most of 2015 opposing the government where Labour were reluctant to do so but also, and perhaps unexpectedly, managing to exert a significant amount of influence. There are two reasons why the SNP did what they did -

One - Siding with the Conservatives = bad move. With an election in just two months and Labour and the Scottish Greens posing a more left-leaning, more progressive challenge to the SNP - they can't really be seen to be going along with the Conservatives on anything as it is electoral poison.

Two - The ultimate goal of the SNP in this parliament is to essentially portray the Westminster government as ignoring Scotland's interests and being ineffectual. The slim majority and increasingly rebellious backbenches (The Cornerstones on Europe and traditionalism and the Libertarians on Human Rights) do the ineffectual job quite well and a bill that the SNP can claim will affect Scottish wages also helps on the ignoring Scotland argument. Voting the bill down helps the SNP in both ways as it neither affects their electorate and boosts their own case for inevitable independence. It also makes the MPs themselves look like they're acting in the constituency interest and by all voting in one way makes the SNP look united and strong compared to a divided and defeated Conservative Party and a weak and divided Labour Party - both plus points with an election around the corner.

Ultimately the SNP hold all the cards including the card telling you how to play and are thus playing the game like masters. How it affects England and Wales doesn't really matter because they don't need to persuade them, whether you call it acting in Scotland's interests or spiteful, narrow-minded selfishness - at the end of the day it is just playing politics.
bilky asko
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It was also helpful to the SNP to insinuate that higher weekend wages was a Scottish right and not just part of a worker's contract.
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robschneider
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It's bullshit. We're not the society we were 40, 30 or even 20 years ago.

Shame on the SNP for showing themselves up as the complete dicks they are. They proclaim not to give a toss about England yet they pull this stunt off when it has fuck all to do with them.

Poor.
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WillPS
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Whatever they say they aren't interested in working constructively for the whole UK at all. FPTP is to blame.
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robschneider
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It's just unfortunate that the Scottish are so ideologically removed from everyone south of Hadrian's Wall that we get a party like the SNP in Parliament, who have the power to affect things that have sod all to do with them - eg them voting against something that already exists in Scotland!

It makes me even more angry when the Scottish people bottled out of independence two years ago. As a result, they've managed to keep our retarded Sunday Trading laws in place. Not everyone works 9-5 Monday to Friday and goes to church on Sunday morning.

It's not 1976 no more.
all new Phil
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robschneider wrote:It makes me even more angry when the Scottish people bottled out of independence two years ago.
What, every single one of them? I'm pretty sure that a fair number of them voted for it.
It's not 1976 no more.
Yet somehow when you post something, it feels like it is.
Thought this was a nice forum, clearly not.
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WillPS
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robschneider wrote:It's just unfortunate that the Scottish are so ideologically removed from everyone south of Hadrian's Wall that we get a party like the SNP in Parliament, who have the power to affect things that have sod all to do with them - eg them voting against something that already exists in Scotland!

It makes me even more angry when the Scottish people bottled out of independence two years ago. As a result, they've managed to keep our retarded Sunday Trading laws in place. Not everyone works 9-5 Monday to Friday and goes to church on Sunday morning.

It's not 1976 no more.
They're not ideologically removed from those south of the border at all. Yorkshire, Lancashire, Tyne & Wear are all overwhelmingly socialist/left leaning, they just don't have the excuse of nationalism. Does my head in, frankly.
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