Jackie Baillie MSP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

By Shonagh Munro

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton and Lomond, has today joined with Usdaw – the union for shop, distributive and allied workers – to call for the Scottish Government to use its powers to close large shops on New Year’s Day, which would allow for shopworkers’ to have a much needed day off during what is by far their busiest time of the year.

Under the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007, Scottish Ministers may, by statutory instrument, ban large shops from opening on New Year’s Day, subject to consultation.

Usdaw is urging the Scottish Government to open that consultation and for MSPs to listen to shopworkers’ concerns about their work/life balance.

Workers’ rights to a decent break over Christmas, and premium payments for working bank holidays depend largely on their contracts of employment and agreements reached between their employer and trade union. Usdaw campaigns for bank holiday working to be voluntary and for voluntary workers to receive premium pay.

Jackie shops

MSPs and shop workers’ union members lobby at Holyrood.

Hogmanay and New Year is a special holiday in Scotland, but this is not reflected in the experience of many retail workers, with three-quarters saying that they feel they spend too little time with friends and family over New Year.

Following the lobby outside parliament, Jackie Baillie raised the issue with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions.

Jackie Baillie said:  “I fully support Usdaw’s worthwhile campaign to protect the rights of workers during the busiest time of the year for the retail sector.

“It is unacceptable that shop staff are expected to work long, unsociable hours on days such as New Year’s Day, which many of us enjoy as a bank holiday. This work has damaging effects on both worker’s physical and mental health and many of them are on low and minimum wages.

“The Scottish Government must take responsibility for the powers that it has and conduct a wide ranging consultation, including with shopworkers, to ensure that their needs are met and working conditions are improved.”

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Shop workers deserve a festive break such as the rest of us get the benefit of. I commit to looking very carefully at the USDAW campaign. I absolutely understand the motivations that are driving the campaign, and I will consider what further steps the Government can take to address those concerns. When I have had the opportunity to do that, I will be happy to ask the relevant minister to reply in detail to Jackie Baillie.”

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