UNIONS condemned the Chancellor’s plans to allow superstores to extend Sunday opening hours yesterday, warning that more work would encroach on workers’ family lives and free time.
In his “emergency” Budget today, George Osborne will outline proposals to be included in the Enterprise Bill that would give mayors and councils the power to relax Sunday trading restrictions in their area.
The move is at odds with Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to Keep Sunday Special campaigners last April that he would not change the law.
Shops larger than 3,000 sq ft are currently limited to trading between 10am and 6pm on Sundays.
Mr Cameron claimed that online trends had spurred a “growing appetite” for more shopping and that a trial run during the 2012 London Olympics had been successful, despite the Office of National Statistics proving that there was actually a spending slump.
The Treasury trumpeted research by the New West End Company, a strategist for 600 chain stores in and around London’s Oxford Street, which purported to show that an extra two hours of trading in the capital would create nearly 3,000 jobs and an extra £200 million a year.
But TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady noted that this would use up retail workers’ “precious family time,” while the profits of smaller businesses would suffer.
“It’s a sign of desperation that the Chancellor is trying to strengthen growth through shopping instead of manufacturing,” she said.
“We need a better economic plan than asking people to spend another day of the week putting debt on their credit cards.”
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said that the Sunday Trading Act was a “great British compromise” that had worked for 21 years in giving “everyone a little bit of what they want.”
He added: “We will vigorously campaign against the proposal.”
Keep Sunday Special spokesman Michael Trend said: “It is hugely disappointing that this government should be trying yet again to fundamentally alter the balance and harmony of our national life in such a underhand manner.”