Retail is one of the most dynamic and important sectors of the economy. Usdaw, the main trade union for shop and distribution workers, had a successful 2007, with the biggest membership increase since 1990.

A growing number of retailers are observing that staff involvement is delivering added value to their businesses and many are finding that an agreement with Usdaw is the best way to deliver the most effective form of staff consultation and involvement.

Usdaw’s biggest agreement is with Tesco, which goes to show that business success and trade union recognition can go hand in hand. Usdaw wants the businesses that we are involved in to be successful, because this is the best way to deliver the best pay and benefits.

One of the low points of 2007 was dealing with the collapse of Kwik Save. The retailer’s demise brought thousands of job losses and the closure of hundreds of stores. Usdaw spent a lot of time and energy guiding and advising Kwik Save members through a difficult time.

This aside, last year was a very successful one for Usdaw. We won a lot of political support for our Supporting Parents and Carers, Check Out Learning and Respect for Shopworkers campaigns.

Looking ahead, I expect the sector to be no less challenging. Analysts expect a tough year – especially for the non-food sector – with the ongoing credit squeeze and a dip in consumer demand.

Usdaw has its own challenges to meet. The increase in migrant and agency workers is an area where we will concentrate our efforts. Agency workers are here to stay and Usdaw will be looking at how we can develop our appeal to agency workers.

Usdaw will continue to lobby for young workers aged 18 to 21 to qualify for the adult rate of the national minimum wage. We believe that a lower rate of pay for 18- to 21-year-olds is not justified and does little to help the retail sector attract the best staff for the future.

Usdaw is a modern trade union, committed to working for partnerships and fairness in the workplace. I am hopeful that the union’s membership will grow in 2008 and the number of agreements we have with employers will increase.

Usdaw’s hope for the future is for a successful retail sector with an influential and expanding trade union.

John Hannett, general secretary, Usdaw