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Volume 124: debated on Thursday 17 December 1987

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10.55 pm

I am privileged to present a petition on behalf of my constituents who are shopworkers and members of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. That union deplores the pressure that shopowners are putting upon staff to work on Boxing day and on 1 and 2 January. USDAW represents 390,000 members, two thirds of whom are women. Many do part-time work, the hours of which are dictated by employers with no regard to anti-social hours that disrupt family life.

The petition complains of Tory legislation that has abolished any legal minimum rate of pay for young people. That has created an incentive to avoid paying full adult rates, which in themselves are barely adequate. The Wages Act 1986 abolished the right of workers to paid holidays, and that was a scandal. Figures published this week show that shops are enjoying a pre-Christmas boom and, in the past weeks, they have had bumper takings in excess of £10 billion.

Surely it is only fair that, following eight weeks of unmitigated pressure, the shop staff who have been working flat out deserve a break. That break should not be just on Christmas day, which, in any case, is not a holiday for most parents. The petition seeks to give shopworkers and the rest of us a real break on Boxing day and on 1 and 2 January.

To lie upon the Table.