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Union slams council over 'summit' on Sunday hours

Belfast City Hall

Shopworkers union Usdaw has hit out at Belfast City Council over its handling of a proposed summit on extending Sunday trading hours.

Last month the strategic policy and resources committee decided to organise a weekend summit of all stakeholders in a bid to break the deadlock after the decision was deferred twice in as many weeks.

Councillors have been unable to reach agreement on the issue of designating Belfast as a "holiday resort", thus allowing large shops to extend their trading hours on 18 Sundays each year.

In the last 12 months there has been one committee vote and two public consultations on the issue.

Combining the two consultations, there is a slight majority (52.8%) in favour of extending Sunday trading hours for large shops.

Retail NI and USDAW are firmly against extending the Sunday trading hours in Belfast.

Others, including Hospitality Ulster and Visit Belfast, are in favour.

USDAW has spoken out about Belfast City Council's handling of the proposed summit, saying that the union wants to develop Belfast's wider weekend economy rather than only discussing the single issue of Sunday trading hours.

"The arrangements the City Council have made go nowhere near what is required and it is disappointing they have taken this approach. We would have to question whether they are taking it seriously," USDAW divisional officer Mike Aylward said.

"Organisations that need to participate in the summit have been given only six days notice of the meeting.

"Only two hours have been allocated for the summit, we cannot possibly properly consider all options that might contribute to boosting the weekend economy of Belfast in such a short time."

Mr Aylward added the meeting agenda appeared to have been narrowed to matters strictly relating to the specific proposal to designate Belfast as a holiday resort, rather than the underlying issue of developing Belfast's weekend economy.

"Usdaw remains committed to working openly with all parties as part of this process, however we do believe this meeting does not achieve the aims of the weekend summit agreed by city councillors," he said.

The union called for the gathering today to be used as a preliminary meeting ahead of a full weekend summit.

Belfast Telegraph