80% of shopworkers say there needs to be a new 'protection of workers' law an Usdaw survey reveals

Date: 15 November 2017 Shopworkers’ trade union leader John Hannett has joined with the overwhelming majority of shopworkers who are calling on the Government to introduce legislation to provide an additional penalty for those who assault workers in the course of their duties.

This week is Usdaw’s annual Respect for Shopworkers Week, 13 - 19 November, which was launched with shocking statistics revealing a big jump in incidents of violence threats and abuse against shopworkers.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is entirely unacceptable that shopworkers encounter violence, threats and abuse for simply doing their job. The interim results of our annual survey have shown that such incidents have significantly increased this year, so it is entirely reasonable that shopworkers continue to ask the Government for greater protection.

“Very worryingly our survey also found that 1 in 5 shopworkers who had been assaulted didn’t report the incident to their employer. My message to shopworkers is do not suffer in silence, abuse is not a part of the job and if they report it we can help to sort it. Sometimes retail staff feel reporting an incident won’t make any difference, so stiffer sentences for those who assault workers, backed up by a properly funded police forces would give staff more confidence and be a strong response to a growing problem.

“Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-age purchases of products like alcohol, knives and acid, refusing to sell alcohol to drunk customers or detaining shoplifters. Parliament has given shopworkers the duty to enforce the law, so Parliament should provide the necessary protection.

“I have been shocked by the leniency of some of the sentences for assault of workers. Around 265 shopworkers are assaulted every day and it is time to say enough is enough. We must give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.”

Examples of lenient sentences given to assailants of shopworkers

A shopworker working at a till refused to serve a customer alcohol.  The customer swore and shouted at her and she called her manager for assistance.  The store manager agreed the customer was too drunk to serve and asked the customer to leave the shop.  He refused to leave.  Whilst staff were trying to escort him out of the shop he kicked and punched 3 members of staff.  He also spat in the face of the store manager.  The police were called and he was given a police caution.

A 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 in front of her children by pulling out chunks of her hair and walks free from court again.

A man grabbed a shopworker and pushed him back against a window. He then walked off shouting that he was going to ‘get him’. In court he was told his suspended sentence for a previous offence would not be activated.

A shopworker was punched on the jaw when she asked a persistent shoplifter to leave, because they’d been barred from the store. The shopworker gave a statement and the police saw the CCTV footage. The attacker was arrested but nothing more has happened.

Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the 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 2017 takes place on 13-19 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 shopworkers not to take abuse as part of the job and report incidents to their manager.

Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2017 survey, based on 1,455 responses, show that over the last 12 months: 62.34% were verbally abused (an increase of 25%), 40.49% were threatened (an increase of 38%) and 3.23% were assaulted (an increase of 25%), which equals 265 per day. 56.11% had not reported an incident of abuse and 21.79% of shopworkers physically attacked did not report the assault. 79.91% say there needs to be a change in the law to provide better protection for shopworkers. The final results of the 2017 survey will be published in the New Year.

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

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