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Respect for Shopworkers - Usdaw lobbies MSPs at the Scottish Parliament

Date: 16 November 2016 Members of the shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw have today lobbied MSPs in the Scottish Parliament during the annual Respect for Shopworkers Week.

Interim results of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Survey reveal that nearly one in ten shopworkers have been assaulted in the course of their duties, but almost a third of them didn’t report the incident. In the last twelve months nearly half of shopworkers were verbally abused and a quarter were threatened. The survey continues and full results will be released in the New Year.

Lawrence Wason – Usdaw’s Scottish Divisional Officer says: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers is one of the great scourges of our society. The statistics are shocking and show that urgent action is required.

“Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many shopworkers. Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Campaign seeks to tackle violence, threats and abuse against retail staff by working with employers to promote respect and make shops safer for staff and customers alike.

“All too often criminals who assault staff are not even sent to court, those who are can receive derisory sentences. In other cases, where the offender isn’t even charged, victims are left feeling that no one cares that they were assaulted. That can lead to staff not reporting incidents, because they don’t believe it will make a difference; so our strong message to shopworkers is ‘report it, to sort it’.

“We have been very pleased by the reception our members received from MSPs. Labour clearly support better protection for shopworkers, but we remain concerned that the SNP Government will again block such a move.”

Today’s respect event was sponsored by Daniel Johnson MSP who says: “I was delighted to welcome Usdaw and their members working in retail to the Parliament. They explained the need for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, Procurator Fiscal, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.

“It is deeply regrettable that the SNP Government previously voted down the Protection of Workers Bill at Stage one, opposing the general principles of the Bill and refusing to give it detailed parliamentary consideration, despite wide support from the trade union movement and others. Labour remains committed to providing shopworkers and all workers valuable protection against assault.

“I join with Usdaw in asking the public to ‘keep their cool and respect shopworkers’. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”

Scottish voices from the frontline: As part of Usdaw’s survey of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, respondents have the opportunity to feedback their experiences, here are some examples from Scottish shopworkers:

Verbal Abuse is a regular occurrence for shop workers. In Anniesland in Glasgow one shopworker said, “customers regularly shout and swear at me and colleagues if they are asked to wait to be served or something they want is out of stock.” In Bridge of Don a shopworker was “called useless for not knowing the information that the customer wanted.”

Age Restricted Sales: The legal requirements placed on shopworkers around the sale of alcohol and other age restricted products is often a trigger for abuse and violence. An Aberdeen shopworker said she was “punched by a drunk when I refused to sell him alcohol.”

Threats outside the workplace: A Selkirk shopworker said “a customer threatened me with a bottle and told me to watch my back on my way home.”

Physical Assaults: A shopworker in Lossiemouth said she was “grabbed by the wrists so that he could take photos of me.” A Fraserburgh shopworker said, “ a drunk customer, made obscene and degrading comments to me.” Whilst a colleague in the same store was, “punched in the face by a drunk person.”

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 435,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 10% 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.

Respect for Shopworkers Week 2016 takes place on 14-20 November. It is an annual event where shopworkers talk to the public about the problems of violence threats and abuse, asking customers to ‘keep their cool’. Part of the campaign will be encouraging shopworker not to take abuse as part of the job and report incidents to their manager.

Interim results of the Usdaw’s survey, based on 2,250 responses across the UK, show that over the last 12 months 44% were verbally abused and 25% were threatened. 8.4% have been assaulted, with 32% not reporting the incident.

For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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