Startling statistics from the GMB trade union have revealed a substantial loss of more than 420,000 traditional retail jobs in the UK since 2010, marking a significant decline of 28.4%. This concerning data casts a shadow of uncertainty over the future of the high street.

These revelations coincide with the closure of the final Wilko stores, resulting in the unfortunate loss of 12,500 jobs as the chain faced collapse. It serves as a stark reminder of the formidable challenges confronting the retail sector.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, GMB underscored the urgent need for economic reforms to prevent further job losses in the retail industry. The union made a compelling case for immediate action to secure the future of this crucial sector.

In a rare alignment of interests, retail leaders and GMB delegates are set to deliberate on a motion calling for an overhaul of the UK’s «archaic» business rates system. Additionally, they advocate for enhanced protections for workers facing redundancy.

The closure of the final hundred Wilko stores places a substantial financial burden on taxpayers, estimated to exceed £25 million in support for redundant workers, as noted in the release.

Moreover, GMB emphasizes the necessity for stricter penalties in cases of violence and abuse directed at retail workers, highlighting the urgent need to ensure their safety and well-being.

Andy Prendergast, GMB National Secretary, issued a poignant statement: «High street retail is the lifeblood of our communities. However, both customers and workers continue to bear an unjust fate. These alarming statistics serve as a wake-up call, signifying that Wilko’s demise is not an isolated incident but a symptom of a broader issue.»

Prendergast stressed the pressing need for comprehensive support for communities and workers grappling with redundancy. GMB’s appeal to the Labour Party includes calls to revamp the business rates system, reinforce redundancy rights, and establish minimum ownership standards for critical national retailers. Failure to act, warns Prendergast, could lead to the irreversible decline of the high street.

These developments underscore the critical imperative for swift and strategic interventions to safeguard the retail industry, an essential cornerstone of British society and the economy.

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