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A Northern Ireland shopworker is abused, threatened or assaulted over 20 times a year on average – Usdaw calls on the Government to act

Date: 30 April 2019 Shopworker’s trade union Usdaw has today released shocking statistics from their annual survey which shows that on average Northern Ireland’s shopworkers were verbally abused, threatened or assaulted 23 times last year, which is nearly once a fortnight.
While not all shopworkers suffer to this extent, some experience much higher levels of abuse, threats and violence. Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Survey shows that during 2018:
  • 54% of Northern Ireland’s shopworkers experienced verbal abuse,
  • 31% were threatened by a customer,
  • with 4 assaulted every day.
Usdaw is running their survey again this year, which can be completed at: www.usdaw.org.uk/respectsurvey
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers are amongst the great scourges of our society. The statistics are shocking and show that urgent action is required. On average a Northern Ireland shopworker can end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault nearly once a fortnight. Our message is clear, abuse is not a part of the job.
“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.
“So there needs to be action to help protect staff. We want the Government to provide stiffer penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.
“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”
Voices from the Northern Ireland 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 Northern Ireland:
Antrim: “Rudeness, using very loud voice, men talking dirty to me, throwing coins at me, touching my hand in an inappropriate way”

Ballyclare: “Working in security so we get abused on a weekly basis”

Belfast: “Threats, verbal abuse when approaching shoplifters, close to assault if not for management restraining the person in question”

Belfast: “I was abused by stopping glue sniffers who wanted to buy gas”

Crumlin: “Shouted at like a dog by a customer to reduce food and told I would get punched in the face if I didn't reduce pineapple”

Newtownabbey: “Being screamed at, called horrible names, told I'm useless at my job”

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 420,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Northern Ireland results of Usdaw’s 2018 survey, based on 128 responses, show that in 2018: 53.9% were verbally abused, 31.5% were threatened, 7.2% of shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 1.6% assaulted during 2018.
For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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