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:
- 69% of Welsh shopworkers experienced verbal abuse (which is above the national average),
- 43% were threatened by a customer (also above the national average),
- with 12 assaulted every day (again above the national average).
The Government has opened a ‘call for evidence’ on this growing issue, following pressure from Usdaw, employers like the Co-op and retailers’ representative organisations like the Association of Convenience Stores, British Retail Consortium and National Federation of Retail Newsagents. The Government is seeking the views of organisations and individuals who wish to contribute to their understanding of the problem of violence and abuse toward shop staff in England and Wales. This consultation closes at 11pm on 28 June 2019 and submissions can be made online at: www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/PVAUE/
Usdaw is running their own survey, which will feed into the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ and 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 Welsh 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.
“Usdaw welcomes the Government opening a ‘call for evidence’ and we encourage everyone concerned with this issue to make their voices heard by contributing to the Home Office online consultation or visiting the Usdaw website to complete our survey, which we will submit to the Government.
“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”
David Hanson MP (Labour, Delyn) says:
“The shocking fact that 69% of Welsh shopworkers are experiencing verbal abuse, which is way above the UK average, should be a wake-up call to the UK Government. They can no longer stand idly by whilst crimes against retail staff continue to be at such high levels. People working in retail should not have to live with violence and abuse whilst they are just trying to earn a decent day’s pay.
“I have long supported Usdaw’s ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign and have been pushing for a new aggravated offence to be introduced to give retail staff greater legal protections. We should never have found ourselves in the position where 12 people are assaulted every day in Wales and the only way we can truly tackle this is through supporting workers with Neighbourhood Policing that has the powers to stop attacks happening.
“Through my campaign in Parliament we have secured a UK Government consultation on violence and abuse against shopworkers that runs until 28 June 2019. If you work in retail, or own a retail outlet, I’m urging you to contribute to this consultation. We need to send a clear message to the UK Government that enough is enough and action needs to be taken.”
Voices from the Welsh 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 Wales:
“Been sworn at ,called a b**** ,one of colleagues was called a c**t, a couple have been in tears.”
“Customers have thrown shoes and irons at me.”
“Irate customer at Christmas time jumped queue on self-scan - when told threw his bottle of whiskey at me.”
“I have been sexually assaulted by a customer in my old workplace 6 months ago.”
“Working Saturday nights leads to drunk customers who are intimidating and aggressive.”
“Swore at by a drunk man and he came back into our store after being asked to leave and came at me and pushed me hard with both hands in the chest making me stumble backwards but luckily I didn’t fall.”
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.
Welsh results of Usdaw’s 2018 survey
, based on 276 responses, show that in 2018: 68.8% were verbally abused (above the national average), 42.9% were threatened (above the national average), 8% of shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 3.6% assaulted during 2018 (above the national average).
For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion