BETTER pay and conditions, greater job security, improving career progression and a commitment to creating a skilled future workforce are at the heart of a new vision to revitalise Wales’ retail sector being launched today by the Welsh Government.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething and Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, are jointly launching the vision today during a visit to independent bookshop, Storyville and Boots the Chemist in Pontypridd town centre.

The retail sector is hugely important to the Welsh economy. It is Wales’ largest private sector employer, providing jobs to more than 114,000 people, contributing 6% of Wales’ Gross Value Added (GVA).

The shared strategic vision for the retail sector sets out how the Welsh Government, the sector and trade unions will work together in social partnership to ensure retail has a bright and sustainable future in Wales, which provides fair and rewarding career opportunities for its current and future workers.

The Welsh Government’s vision sets out:

ambitions to ensure retail remains at the heart of Welsh communities by offering people fair work and real career opportunities; and

includes measures to help the sector overcome workforce recruitment and retention challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU, alongside the impact on operating costs and consumer habits caused by the cost-of-living crisis.

The strategic vision will be followed by a delivery-focussed action plan in the coming months.

The Welsh Government states that it values the jobs, goods, community services and benefits the sector provides; that Ministers are committed to working with partners to support a sustainable and prospering retail sector that remains at the heart of Welsh communities, which offers people fair work and real career opportunities; and the changing face of our town centres is vital to retail and in turn our town centres need a successful and resilient retail sector.

The vision outlines the major challenges facing the sector, and defines the key areas where action is needed.

These include:

improving career opportunities within retail, with a commitment to progressively improving pay, terms and conditions beyond statutory minimums, ideally through collective bargaining;

greater job security, particularly in ensuring workers being offered guaranteed hours and sufficient notice of changes in shift patterns;

retail becoming an exemplar of workforce equality, diversity and inclusion – with proactive steps taken to address under-representation, occupational segregation and pay gaps;

ensuring fair working conditions and a safe working environment, with retail workers having an effective voice in decisions that affect them and their working conditions;

ensuring Wales’ town centres and high streets are thriving, through interventions such as investment, including ‘Transforming Towns’ regeneration investment, support for non-domestic rates and, through the Welsh Government’s Town Centre First approach, making these settings the preferred location for workplaces and services;

addressing skills shortages. Building on the Welsh Government’s Plan for Employability and Skills and in partnership with the sector and trades unions, Ministers are committed to helping to provide the sector with a future-proofed workforce. The plan sets out actions to both upskill existing workers and attract new entrants to the sector; and 

helping retailers to seize the opportunities of decarbonisation and digitalisation by, for example, reducing their reliance on fossil fuels, minimising the carbon footprint of their supply chains and investing in and maximising the potential use of digital technology.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said:

“Retail in Wales is hugely important to our economy, our communities, and our well-being as a nation. Retail is all around us in every part of Wales – in every village, town and city. We very much value the jobs, goods, community services and benefits it provides.

Our appreciation of the retail sector, as a cornerstone of the foundational economy, has only grown through the COVID-19 pandemic – but we know a successful and resilient retail sector does not happen by accident. That’s why it is important we nurture the environment in which it can grow and adapt, especially in response to shift to a more circular economy.

The shared vision we are launching today commits the Welsh Government and the retail sector to an ongoing dialogue and close working to rise to the challenges ahead. We know there are no quick fixes, easy solutions, or infinite budgets. What we do have, however, is a willingness to work in social partnership, with the Welsh Government, employers, business representative bodies and trade unions working together to understand where we are now, where we want to get to, and how we can get there.

The Welsh Government is determined to improve the quality of life and the conditions that will make Wales an attractive place for individuals and businesses to plan their futures. I firmly believe the retail sector has a vibrant future, and will continue to be a key player within the Welsh economy.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn added:

“The retail sector is heavily dependent on its workforce. A better deal for retail workers – better pay, better terms and conditions, better training and better career prospects will help the retail sector overcome workforce recruitment and retention challenges, particularly at a time of high employment. This will help project retail as a long-term career of choice and equip the workforce to deliver even better levels of customer service.

We must ensure retail workers have a genuine voice, predominantly through their trade unions, in helping to shape their working conditions and the future of work in the sector. Embedding the spirit of social partnership – where businesses and trade unions work together – must be a cornerstone of the retail sector of tomorrow.”

Sara Jones, Head of the Wales Retail Consortium said:

“The retail vision provides welcome recognition of the retail industry, and our workforce, by the Welsh Government. The covid pandemic shone a spotlight on just how important a role our retailers play, as drivers of the economy and as community champions at the heart of our towns. The industry continues to face structural challenges that have only been accelerated over the last two years, however we know that there are opportunities to flourish and to create sustainable high streets and ensure retail remains a career of choice for many.

The sector has a strong tradition of innovating and being at the forefront of new ideas, to the benefit of Welsh customers, and we look forward to building on these foundations in a truly collaborative approach with policymakers and leaders at all levels. Whether it be through the industry’s Climate Action Roadmap, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, or our significant charitable giving, retailers are continuously looking at ways to promote equality and opportunity for our workforce, suppliers and our communities, and be an effective contributor to society. We look forward to the next stage of the retail vision and the WRC being a key partner in delivering on these aspirations.”

Nick Ireland, Usdaw Regional Secretary added:

“We have been working with the Welsh Government and our social partners for some time on how we can together tackle long established issues in the retail industry and we are delighted with the vision that they have announced today. The industry as a whole was struggling before COVID-19 with record numbers of shop closures and job losses, so the ongoing commitment to support high streets and regenerate town centres is crucial.

We not only need to secure jobs through helping the retail industry to prosper, but they must be good jobs with decent pay, that promote equality and bring an end to insecure contracts, which we have consistently called for in our ‘New Deal for Workers’ campaign. That is best achieved through collective bargaining with trade unions, which is an important part of this vision for retail in Wales.

Usdaw stands ready to build on the work we have done with the Welsh Government, business representative groups and  by engaging with retail employers and seeking to deliver a highly motivated, well-trained and respected workforce. For too long retail work has been undervalued, this vision gives us the opportunity to change that and give Welsh retail staff the dignity they deserve.”

 

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

You are in breach of copyright
error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: