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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Sunday working bill passed
Argos sacked workers for refusing to work on Sundays
New legislation to give shop workers in Scotland the same rights to refuse to work on Sundays as other staff across the UK has cleared its passage through the Commons.

The Sunday Working (Scotland) Bill, introduced by the Greenock and Inverclyde Labour MP David Cairns, has cross party support.

The new laws will close a loophole which allowed retail chain Argos to sack workers in Aberdeen for refusing to work on Sundays.

The bill now goes to the House of Lords.

Trading rules

If passed it would extend a ban of enforced working on the traditional "day of rest" to employees north of the border.

Mr Cairns' move follows an outcry over the decision by Argos to sack 11 female workers who refused to work on Sundays.

The firm eventually reversed its position and offered the women their jobs back after talks with Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell late last year.

Shopworkers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to give their consent for Sunday working - a protection introduced after Sunday trading rules were relaxed in 1994.

But, because there had never been a ban on shops opening seven days a week north of the border, the new employment rights were not extended to Scotland.

This is not a Bill to punish a company, it is about extending legal protection to all employees throughout the UK.
David Cairns MP

When more and more chains began to open their doors on Sundays in the rest of the UK, Scottish branches, which had traditionally stayed closed despite the more liberal laws, began to open as well, leaving thousands of Scottish workers unprotected.

The bill would give them exactly the same rights as their counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However Mr cairns insisted: "This is not a ill to punish a company, it is about extending legal protection to all employees throughout the UK."

It was "fundamentally wrong" that workers in Greenock should not have the same rights as workers in Greenwich.

The bill, which received its Third Reading unopposed, will be steered through its House of Lords stages by former Labour MP Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld.

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