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Scottish Parliament to debate Usdaw's Respect for Shopworkers Campaign

Date: 07 November 2017 Shopworkers’ trade union leader John Hannett has welcomed a Scottish Parliament debate on Usdaw's Respect for Shopworkers Week. The debate will be led by Labour’s Daniel Johnson MSP and is due to take place at 5pm today.

Usdaw is preparing for their annual Respect for Shopworkers Week 2017, which takes place next week 13-19 November. Shopworkers will be organising events across Scotland, talking to the public about violence, threats and abuse, asking customers to ‘keep their cool’. A part of the campaign encourages shopworkers not to take abuse as just a part of the job and report incidents to their employer.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many. 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 to promote respect and make workplaces safer for staff and customers alike and we need the help of the police to deliver that aim.

“There needs to be government action to protect shopworkers. I have been shocked by the leniency of some of the sentences for assault of workers. Some violent criminals charged with assault do not get to court and those who are can receive derisory sentences. In other cases the offender isn’t even charged and victims are left feeling that no one cares that they were assaulted.

“Around 200 shopworkers are assaulted every day across the UK and it is time to say enough is enough. Retail staff are an important part of our communities and their role must be valued, respected and protected.”

Incidents of violence and abuse have risen sharply over recent years, and according to the Scottish Retail Crime Survey, rose by 40% in the last year. Many of the incidents of violence and abuse are triggered by refusal of sale when the customer cannot prove their age when purchasing age-restricted products like alcohol or tobacco.

Daniel Johnson MSP is expected to say: “Violence and abuse at work is unacceptable – wherever you work, whatever the circumstance. It is never ‘just part of the job’.

“Shopworkers are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse at work, sometimes working alone, and often having to challenge customers to prove their age when buying alcohol and tobacco. That can trigger violence and abuse, and those staff deserve protection.

“The Respect for Shopworkers Week is important, as we look to debate and discuss the issues of violence at work.

“However, I am clear that there is more that Parliament could do, beyond debate. We should act. That is why I will be proposing a member’s bill on Protecting Workers in the coming weeks. I hope I can count on the support of colleagues across the chamber, in recognising and protecting workers through new legislation.”

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 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.

The full text of the motion being debated: “That the Parliament notes that Respect for Shopworkers Week, which is organised by USDAW’s Freedom From Fear campaign, runs from 13 to 19 November 2017; further notes that the week highlights the violence and abuse faced by shopworkers; recognises that the Retail Crime Survey, published in February 2017, concluded that "retail staff continue to suffer unacceptable levels of violence and abuse", rising by 40% since 2015-16; is concerned that alcohol sales and the legal requirement of the Challenge 25 scheme can often act as a trigger-point for the outbreak of violence or abuse against workers, and considers that the abuse experienced by simply doing their job is of continued distress to shopworkers; celebrates the week’s vital role in raising awareness of the violence and abuse faced by shopworkers, and notes calls on both the Scottish and UK governments to act so that all public-facing workers can benefit from further protection from violence, abuse, and threats when at work.

Sign up to the Usdaw Respect Thunderclap to spread the message with your social media contacts at: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFThunderclap

Results of the Usdaw’s 2016 survey, based on 2,805 responses, show that over the last 12 months 50% were verbally abused and 29% were threatened. 8% have been assaulted, with 32% not reporting the incident. The 2017 survey is currently being compiled.

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

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