'Workers bullied' as shop hours extended for Games
GMB slams talks 'sham' as it calls on big retailers to make 'Olympic premium' payments
Mark Leftly is political correspondent at The Independent on Sunday and associate business editor across the Independent titles. He writes a weekly column, Parliamentary Business, published on a Wednesday, that covers politics and the City. He is a multi-award winning reporter and was named Press Gazette's business magazine journalist of the year prior to joining The Independent on Sunday.
Monday 16 April 2012
More than one million shop and distribution workers face being "bullied" by big retailers that extend Sunday opening hours during the London Olympics and Paralympics, the GMB union has warned.
The government has invited the GMB to talks over pay and working hours during the games today. However, the union is set to snub business minister Mark Prisk's invitation, blasting it "a sham consultation" that is taking place after the government had already decided to suspend Sunday trading laws for eight weeks this summer.
The Coalition only announced the move last month and is rushing a bill through Parliament so Sunday opening hours are relaxed just ahead of the Games on 22 July. The GMB wants "Olympic premium" pay for those required to work longer, particularly in London. The union wants workers there compensated for the extra time it will take to get to and from their employer.
There are also claims that staff will be pressured into working longer shifts. The GMB is calling for a system that will ensure that anyone working additional hours during the Olympics will have done so on a voluntary basis.
Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for retail, said: "There is no recognition of the disruption that extending opening hours will have on well over a million shop and distribution workers across the country. We're concerned that they will be bullied into working and where's the fairness? Retailers will be making so much money and workers should share in that. We're not even going to waste our time talking to Prisk."
There is anger that some industries have been compensated for the Olympic disruption while others, including lorry drivers and warehouse operatives, might get nothing. Tube drivers, for example, could earn up to £6,000 extra during the Games.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: "This has been handled spectacularly badly by the government. They introduced this bill so late – they had plenty of warning that the Games were coming."
A spokeswoman for the business department said ministers were looking to ensure employees were treated fairly. She added: "The GMB has raised some valid concerns about the Sunday Trading Laws Suspension, which is why government is holding discussions with the unions, retailers and employers' groups before the second reading of the Bill."
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