Calls for action mount as retail job cuts tally surpasses 41,000

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Calls for action mount as retail job cuts tally surpasses 41,000
The coronavirus crisis has sparked a swathe of shop closures, having rapidly sped up the shift to online shopping and as consumer uncertainty has taken its toll.
// Calls for action mount as M&S job cuts brings retail tally to more than 41,000
// There are fears more job cuts will come as the furlough ends in October
// Labour has called for targeted support while Usdaw urged the government to intervene to save the high street

Marks & Spencer’s latest round of jobs cuts brings the total number of redundancies and roles at risk in the UK’s embattled retail sector to more than 41,000 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to figures compiled by the PA news agency, the retail bloodbath has claimed or put under threat at least 41,391 UK jobs since the lockdown in late March.

The coronavirus crisis has sparked a swathe of shop closures, having rapidly sped up the shift to online shopping and as consumer uncertainty has taken its toll.


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The 7000 jobs cuts announced by M&S this morning – the majority of which are store staff – add to 2500 announced last week by department store chain Debenhams.

Other big names that have announced hefty job cuts amid the crisis include the John Lewis Partnership, WHSmith, Boots, Dixons Carphone, M&Co, River Island, Selfridges, Harrods, Dyson, Oak Furnitureland, Ted Baker, White Stuff, Burberry, Travis Perkins, Monsoon Accessorize, Laura Ashley, Cath Kidston, Mulberry, TM Lewin, Clarks and Topshop parent company Arcadia Group.

It has led to calls for a targeted support scheme for the sector amid concerns the UK Government’s plans will not be enough to save jobs or specifically help or retrain those in retail who have lost their roles.

The government’s furlough scheme for workers is currently being tapered off before coming to an end in October.

While the government has launched the back to work bonus, offering firms £1000 for every furloughed staff member a business retains, there are fears there will still be thousands more retail jobs axed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled his Plan for Jobs in the summer statement alongside a 15 per cent cut in VAT to add to the one year business rates holiday already available for eligible businesses.

However, Labour has called for a tailored Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund to protect jobs and help struggling firms in the sector.

It believes an underspend in coronavirus business grant schemes could be used to unlock significant funds for local areas to target help for those in particular distress, including restaurants and retailers.

Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business and consumers, said the M&S job losses were “devastating for the workers involved yet they also tell a much bigger story about the threat to our high streets”.

“The scale of job losses was not inevitable but the incompetence of this government means we’re now seeing wave after wave of redundancies, and store closures,” she said.

“Labour has called for a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund to support businesses in distress and to save jobs now. Ministers must change course.”

Meanwhile, shopworkers’ union Usdaw urged the government to intervene to help save the high street.

“This job loss announcement is yet another devastating blow for M&S staff and yet another bombshell for our high streets,” Usdaw national officer David Gill said.

“The government has a clear choice; do they want to see the high street go to the wall, or do they want to help save it?”

The union called for a recovery plan to be developed with trade unions and retail employers that includes:

• Fundamental reform of business rates
• An immediate and comprehensive review of rental values and lease arrangements
• Reform of UK tax law to ensure that companies pay their fair share of tax through tackling tax avoidance and the use of offshore havens
• Funding for local authorities so they can invest in their local economy, transport networks and high streets
• Investment in skills for retail workers
• A new deal for retail, distribution and home delivery workers based around a real living wage and guaranteed hours

with PA Wires

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