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Owen Smith pledges protection for workers after Usdaw highlights the extent of violence and abuse

Date: 13 September 2016 Shopworkers trade union leader John Hannett has highlighted the problems of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers and welcomes a commitment from Owen Smith MP to support protection of workers legislation.
Every minute of every day yet another shopworker is assaulted, threatened or abused. Usdaw surveys show that over half of shopworkers were verbally abused in the last year, with more than 10% on a weekly or daily basis; 30% were threatened with violence and over 2% were assaulted. This year the British Retail Consortium reported a 28% increase in offences involving abuse or violence against shopworkers.

The issue is not exclusive to retail staff as a poll carried out by YouGov for the TUC revealed that 12% of workers across all sectors have experienced work-related violence. Most at risk are those working in health, education, retail, hospitality and leisure.

Speaking from the annual Trade Union Congress in Brighton, Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith 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.

“Many UK workers are on the frontline of dealing with the public and that can mean they end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault.

“Labour in Government acted to protect emergency service workers, but I think the time has come to extend that protection to all public-facing employees like shopworkers, bus drivers, rail staff, doctors, nurses, postal workers and anyone who encounters the public in the course of their duties at work.

“We need a simple stand-alone offence that provides stiffer penalties for those who assault workers, an offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS and judiciary. Labour has in the past attempted to amend Government legislation to give all public-facing staff this improved protection. On four separate occasions Parliament has had the opportunity to toughen the law to better protect shopworkers, but each time the Tories and Liberals have combined to block Labour’s amendments.

“My pledge to frontline workers is that if I become Leader of the Labour Party, it will be a priority to protect them from violence threats and abuse. I will act where the Conservatives refuse to.”

John Hannett - Usdaw General Secretary says: "We welcome the support of Owen Smith for our Freedom from Fear Campaign. Owen offers us the best opportunity to unite our Party, stand up to the Tories, win the confidence of voters and get Labour back into government. So Owen’s commitment to protection of workers legislation is important to our members, because only a Labour Government will deliver this.

“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 staff about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works 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.

“Retail crime remains too high and there needs to be action to protect staff. It is time for the Government to act by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”

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 430,000 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.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers