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Usdaw calls on the Scottish Government to act as a survey finds that violence against shopworkers has increased by 40%

Date: 15 November 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has called on the Scottish Government to back a protection of workers Bill after shocking statistics reveal that incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers remain a major problem on the frontline of retail.
Daniel Johnson MSP (Labour, Edinburgh Southern) is seeking to provide additional protections for retail staff, including those who sell age-restricted items. His member’s bill has been through an initial consultation and overwhelmingly backed by  shopworkers. It is also supported by Asda, Co-op and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation. The Bill is currently in the drafting stage.
This week is Usdaw’s annual Respect for Shopworkers’ Week when the union’s reps and members organise awareness events as part of the Freedom from Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent verbal abuse, threats and violent attacks at work.
Interim results of Usdaw’s UK-wide Freedom From Fear Survey show that during 2018: 6 in 10 shopworkers experienced verbal abuse, 37% were threatened by a customer, with over 230 assaulted every day. The number of incidents is in line with last year and remains higher than 2 years ago. The survey continues and full results, with specific statistics for Scotland, will be released in the new year.
Stewart Forrest – Usdaw Scottish Divisional Officer says: “The extent of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers is shocking and requires urgent action. We hope that MSPs from all parties and the Scottish Government are listening and they will back Daniel Johnson’s much-needed Bill when it comes before Holyrood.
“This week our members are out campaigning on high streets, in shopping centres, convenience stores and supermarkets; talking to the public and asking them to ‘keep their cool and respect shopworkers’. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and their role must be valued and respected.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “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.
“There also needs to be action from the Scottish Government to help protect staff by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.”
Scottish voices from the frontline: As part of Usdaw’s survey of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, respondents have the opportunity to feed back their experiences, here are some examples from shopworkers in Scotland:
  • Kilmarnock convenience store worker who is verbally abused every day told us they been “held up 3 times, hammer-blade-scissors.”
  • Glasgow shopworker in a discount retailer suffered verbal abuse every week, has been threatened several times this year and was “hit in the face by a shoplifter”.
  • A convenience store worker who is frequently verbally abused and threatened said: “Opening store at 5.30am and was assaulted by three girls at the cash machine outside store.”
  • Ayr supermarket worker said their main issues were “Drunks and drug addicts abusing staff members when being asked for ID.”
  • Dumfries shopworker said: “A customer on drugs wanted a product not in stock and got physical when told to leave.”
  • Edinburgh supermarket workers experienced hurtful verbal abuse: “While doing a click and collect order an impatient customer called me and idiot and unqualified, also made another colleague cry.”
  • Bellshill convenience store worker is often abused and threatened because of enforcing the Challenge 25 law.
  • Highlands supermarket worker has experienced “spitting, swearing and was punched to the ground.”
  • Glasgow clothes shop worker told us they experienced regular incidents including: “Customers shouting, swearing and throwing items at staff. Threats made to wait outside store until closing and beat them.”
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.
Respect for Shopworkers Week 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 2018 survey, based on 3,561 responses from across the UK, show that in 2018 so far: 59.65% were verbally abused, 36.93% were threatened. 11.36% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 230 assaults per day during 2018. The final results of the 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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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers