Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis is urging MPs to vote for New Clause One amendment (see notes for editors) to the Offensive Weapons Bill in tomorrow’s report stage debate in the House of Commons.
The amendment, tabled by David Hanson MP, provides legal protection for shopworkers enforcing the ban on selling corrosive substances and knives to under 18s. It is supported by the Co-op Group, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), all seeking Government action to tackle the growing problems of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.
This month’s annual Respect for Shopworkers Week was launched with shocking survey statistics revealing a 40% increase in incidents of violence against shopworkers since 2016, with threats and abuse also up significantly. Worryingly the survey revealed that 1 in 6 retail staff who have been assaulted don’t report it.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says:
“When retail employers, the shopping public and the shopworkers’ trade union agree on a measure to protect staff, we hope that MPs will take notice and support the amendment tomorrow.
“This is a much needed Bill that deserves support and we very much welcome it, but the Bill refers to ‘the accused’ on 36 occasions and every time ‘the accused’ is either a shopworker or a delivery driver, not the person who is possibly buying a restricted item to use as a weapon.
“Recent Usdaw survey results show that one in six assaulted shopworkers did not report the attack, mainly because they don’t believe it will make any difference. Passing this amendment will change that perception, because at the moment many retail staff think that age-restricted sales legislation is about prosecuting shopworkers and the Bill, as drafted, reinforces that.
“We need a better balance in the law. We do not believe that the existing offence of assault is enough in this circumstance; it is rarely used and difficult to prove in cases of verbal abuse and threats. A specific offence of obstructing a retail worker that is easily understood by employers, their staff, police, the judiciary, shoppers and most of all violent criminals is absolutely necessary.
“The biggest trigger for violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers is enforcing the law on age-restricted sales. Shopworkers are on the frontline of helping to keep our communities safe. Their role should be valued, they deserve our respect, but most of all they deserve the protection of the law.”
A Populus poll
commissioned by the Co-operative Party showed that 85% of voters agree that: “The government owes a duty of care to shopworkers who enforce important laws restricting the sale of certain items like alcohol, acid and knives.” They also believe that the best way to deliver this is with: “A tough new law to increase criminal sentences for anyone convicted of using threats or violence against a shopworker.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with around 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.
Offensive Weapons Bill: New Clause 1 - Protection for retail staff:
To move the following Clause—
(1) A person (“the purchaser”) commits an offence if they intentionally obstruct a
person (“the seller”) in the exercise of their duties under section 1 of this Act.
(2) In this section, “intentionally obstruct” includes, but is not limited to, a person
acting in a threatening manner.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary
conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
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