Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has published a letter she has sent to Prime Minister Theresa May, demanding that government ministers fully engage in supporting Shop Direct employees who are affected by the depot closing in Shaw, along with those in Chadderton and Salford.
Mrs Abrahams posted the letter and her explanation on Facebook. The letter reads:
“Dear Prime Minister, I am writing to you regarding the recent announcement by Shop Direct to pull out of Greater Manchester sites including Shaw in my constituency, with the loss of almost 2,000 jobs.
“The Shop Direct distribution centre in Shaw currently employs 705 Shop Direct employees with 636 agency employees.
“This is devastating news for the Shop Direct staff and their families and the anticipated redundancies will have a dreadful effect on the local community.
“I am bitterly disappointed that Shop Direct failed to engage with the council, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, or myself before yesterday morning about their plans to move to the East Midlands in the 18 months that this was being considered.
“I’ll be working closely with the council, unions and Mayor’s office to ensure that Shop Direct management are co-ordinating properly with trade union representatives and staff, and that they keep their commitment to support staff impacted by these potential redundancies.
“I am writing to you to, firstly, ask that the Government is fully engaged in the process of supporting my constituents through this difficult time.
“It is imperative that staff and local businesses in the area are provided with focused support by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I would be grateful for your assurance that focused plans will be developed regarding skills and re-training packages, employment advice and financial support.
“It is imperative that Oldham Council is also given support as part of its ‘Get Oldham Working’ project; given half of its budget has been cut by your Government since 2010, this will put even more pressure on them.
“Shop Direct is not in financial trouble. It reported an increase in underlying profits before tax of 10.2 per -cent to £160.4m last year. It has seen sales growth increasing over five consecutive years. The decisions it has made are purely commercial.
“The proposed site in the East Midlands will employ fewer staff as Shop Direct moves towards increased automation. Given that automation is likely to lead to huge challenges for the UK labour market as a whole, urgent action is required from the Government.
“Secondly, I urge the Government to put in place measures to support workers impacted by the ascendance of automation.
“What is the Government doing to assess these impacts on the labour market, and what, specifically, is being proposed to mitigate the negative effects of automation?
“What engagement has the Government had with employers regarding this, and in particular the way employers manage the transition to automation that supports their needs to compete, but recognises their responsibilities as employers to their workers?
“The Bank of England estimate that 15m UK jobs will be affected by automation by the 2030s, with PriceWaterhouseCoopers saying a third of all UK jobs will be impacted.
“There is already evidence of this in the retail sector and although automation will affect jobs at all levels, it will hit low paid jobs first. These estimates don’t even factor in the impact of Brexit on the economy and jobs.
“I request an urgent meeting with you and your ministers to discuss plans to support my constituents. It is important that all action is coordinated with all relevant agencies which unfortunately has not been the case to date.
“I am committed to do all I can to ensure my constituents are not left to deal with this alone and I hope that you will act with me on this.
In view of the public interest in this matter, I shall be putting this letter into the public domain.
“Yours sincerely, Debbie Abrahams MP, Oldham East and Saddleworth.”