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Usdaw welcomes Labour’s manifesto commitment to protect workers from violence

Date: 17 April 2015 Shopworkers trade union leader John Hannett has today welcomed Labour’s manifesto commitment to ‘ensure staff who work with the public are given greater protection, with tougher penalties for those who assault them’.
In a survey of over 5,000 retail staff from across the UK, as part of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Campaign, the results show that last year, on average, 241 shopworkers were assaulted every day. The survey also reveals that 33% of shopworkers were threatened by customers and over half were verbally abused.
John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Our survey shows that life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many shopworkers and there is still a lot to do to help protect them.
“We launched our Freedom From Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail workers about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with retailers and the British Retail Consortium to promote respect and make workplaces safer for staff and customers alike.
“All too often criminals who assault staff are not even sent to court, and those who are often receive derisory sentences. Like the thug, given a suspended sentence for assault, who goes out to celebrate his 'lenient' sentence and launches a vile racist attack on a woman shopworker, assaults her by pulling out chunks of her hair and walks free from court again.
“In other cases, where the offender often isn’t charged at all and victims are left feeling that no one cares that they were assaulted. Like Val, who was punched on the jaw when she asked a persistent shoplifter to leave, because they’d been barred from the store. Val gave a statement and the police saw the CCTV footage. The attacker was arrested but nothing more has happened.
“Retail crime remains too high and there needs to be action to protect shopworkers. On four occasions in the current Parliament, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs combined to defeat Labour amendments to legislation that would have provided stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers.
“It is time for the Government to act and the record shows that a Labour Government will deliver. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”
Yvette Cooper – Shadow Home Secretary says: “I’m a big supporter of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign, raising awareness and ways to make people feel safer at work. I can assure everyone that a Labour Government will make sure staff working with the public get greater protection from attacks, with tougher penalties for criminals.
“Labour proposed this measure in the last Parliament on four occasions, but Conservative and Lib Dem MPs voted against us. So the choice is clear, for workers to get additional protection from violence, threats and abuse at work they will need to vote Labour.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 433,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Usdaw’s survey of 5,021 shopworkers was conducted by telephone in November and asked participants about their experiences over the past twelve months. The results were:
  •  3.1% assaulted
  •  33% threatened
  •  56.3% verbally abused
Sources of case studies quoted above, Val is an Usdaw member who gave her story in one of our surveys. The racist attack story is from the Daily Mail:
For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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