As shops around the world roll up their shutters and open their doors, UNI Global Union’s Commerce sector is kicking off a campaign for the safe return to work at fashion retail shops post pandemic.
The campaign supports a new set of guidelines to help UNI’s member unions, from Argentina to Australia, negotiate in-store measures to protect retail workers, customers, and external vendors in the wake of Covid-19.
The guidelines cover cleaning and disinfecting, personal protective equipment, scheduling, customer behaviour, and social distancing in stores. They also emphasize the vital role of union health and safety committees in enforcing these standards.
“We cannot reopen our shops and our economies without taking steps to minimize the risk of another outbreak,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “For retail to successfully rebound, workers and customers must feel safe while shopping, and these guidelines, enforced by unions on the ground, help secure a safe and sanitary retail environment.”
UNI Commerce’s push for a safe return to work is particularly needed where government requirements or sectoral standards are weak to non-existent. For example, following the controversial re-opening of shopping malls in Turkey, Turkish trade unions will use the guidelines to promote better protections for the thousands of fast fashion workers employed in the shopping malls.
In Peru, membership for the newly established union for H&M workers (Sindicato Unico H&M Perú) has doubled in recent months, as many H&M employees were seeking advice and more protections against the risk of Covid-19 infections. This union will use the campaign for return to work to help grow their ranks and establish demands for the weeks and months ahead.
“These guidelines incorporate best practices from around the world, including what we have learned from essential food and medicine retail workers during the pandemic as well as the return to work protocols negotiated with employers like Zara,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of UNI Commerce and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in the United States. “But we know that engaged, trained workers are the best way to ensure that these guidelines are followed, and we will continue working with UNI affiliates to enact them.”
UNI developed these standards for a safe return to work in fashion retail based on criteria set by several unions, particularly those in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, and Spain.
UNI Commerce represents millions of retail workers the world over. It has previously published guidelines for food retail workers, and along with some of the largest food and grocery companies, it has established a set of principles for safety during the Covid-19 pandemic. UNI also has global agreements with Inditex and H&M, securing fundamental rights for retail workers globally.