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85% of the shopping public agree with Usdaw - the Government owes a duty of care to shopworkers enforcing age-restricted sales laws

Date: 08 October 2018 A new poll on legal protection for retail staff is published by the Co-operative Party today as Parliament prepares for two debates highlighting assaults and abuse directed at shopworkers, with more than 260 violent attacks every day in 2017.
The poll shows 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.” In addition, given four options to choose from, the public believe the best way to protect shopworkers is: “A tough new law to increase criminal sentences for anyone convicted of using threats or violence against a shopworker.”
 
On Tuesday 9 October Labour & Co-operative MP Alex Norris will speak in the Commons to make the case for attacks on retail staff at work to be treated in court as ‘aggravated’ assaults. This would make offenders liable to a longer prison sentence to reflect the fact that their victim was serving the public.
 
Monday 15 October is the report stage of the Offensive Weapons Bill, which requires shopworkers to enforce new restrictions on the sale of acid and other corrosive substances.  An amendment tabled by Labour MP David Hanson will create a new offence of obstructing or threatening shop staff while doing their job, with fines of up to £2,500, which is supported by shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw and employers’ organisation the British Retail Consortium.
 
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said: “Shopworkers will play a vital role on the frontline of policing the Offensive Weapons Bill when it becomes law, as they already do on the sale of alcohol and other age-restricted products. Yet they are offered no additional protection under the law and shopworkers can be treated like criminals if a mistake is made at the point of sale.
 
“This is a much-needed Bill that deserves support and we very much welcome it. We have all been appalled by the increase in assaults and deaths when acid and knives are used as offensive weapons. It is absolutely right that we do everything possible to stem the scourge of knife crime and acid attacks.
 
“When Parliament passes laws that shopworkers have to enforce, they should also provide legal protection for shopworkers. This poll clearly shows that the shopping public agree with our position, as do the retailers, so we hope that MPs are listening.”
 
Alex Norris, Labour & Co-operative MP for Nottingham North, said: “We hope the Government will listen to the 85% of the public who say it has a duty to protect shopworkers who enforce our laws. MPs of all parties now have the opportunity to vote for tougher laws against offenders who assault and abuse retail staff, and I urge them to support this urgently needed change in the law.
 
“Every day, more than 260 retail workers face violence, just for doing their jobs. Six of those daily incidents involve a knife, two involve a gun. For hundreds of others, verbal abuse, intimidation and threats are a daily occurrence, considered ‘just part of the job’. It shouldn’t be.
 
“Nobody should face violence at work, and we have a particular responsibility to protect those who put themselves on the line to enforce the law.
 
“In Parliament over the next week I urge MPs of all parties to listen to employers, staff and the wider public and vote for tougher penalties against offenders who assault or threaten shopworkers.”
 
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.
 
Usdaw’s annual survey 2017 found: 265 attacks using violence every day, two thirds of retail staff experienced verbal abuse by customers, up from half in 2016, more than four out of ten had been threatened with violence, up from less than 30 per cent in 2016.  https://www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear
 
Employers’ organisation the British Retail Consortium’s 2018 survey found: 13 staff suffered assault causing injury every day, more than double the previous year. https://brc.org.uk/news/2018/new-retail-crime-figures-expose-the-growing-threat-of-serious-violence-against-staff
 
The Populus poll of 1,095 adults, commissioned by the Co-operative Party, shows: 85% agree that: “The government owes a duty of care to shop workers who enforce important laws restricting the sale of certain items like alcohol, acid and knives.” Given four options, the public believe the best way to protect shopworkers is: “A tough new law to increase criminal sentences for anyone convicted of using threats or violence against a shopworker.” Respondents were asked to select one option only from four suggested policy solutions. The proportion choosing each option was:
  • “A tough new law to increase criminal sentences for anyone convicted of using threats or violence against a shopworker.” – 41%
  • “A reversal of police cuts to put more officers back on the High Street” – 31%
  • “More investment by retailers in CCTV and other security equipment” – 14%
  • “More financial support for community groups that tackle the causes of crime” – 9%
  • None of the above – 5%
The majority of the public do not agree that: “Retail crime is a victimless crime because big companies are insured against their losses,” (55% disagree, 24% agree). Full tables for the Populus poll are here: https://www.populus.co.uk/poll/co-operative-party-retail-workers/ Populus conducted a demographically representative online survey of 1,095 adults aged 18+ in the UK from the 3rd- 4th October 2018. Data weighted to be demographically representative of adults in the UK.  Populus is a founding member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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