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Government's warm words and sympathy do not protect shopworkers - Usdaw wants legislation to tackle increasing violence, threats and abuse

Date: 26 February 2019 Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis is disappointed that a protection of shopworkers amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill was not successful during tonight’s report stage debate in the House of Lords.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Tonight Peers had the opportunity to rebalance the Offensive Weapons Bill and provide some protections for retail staff, who will be enforcing the law, but as it was clear that there was insufficient support in the House we understand why it was not pushed to a vote.

“We are grateful to Lord Roy Kennedy for pushing this issue as far as he could on behalf of our members. Unfortunately we lost the support of Liberal Democrat Peers over a technical issue around community and custodial sentences. Our members now face additional risks of prosecution because of this Bill, but no commensurate additional protection.

“One major achievement from this campaign is that, for the first time, a Conservative Government accepts there is an issue to tackled, that now needs to be backed up with urgent action. Following a roundtable meeting that I attended, we have now secured a ‘call for evidence’ and investigation into what can be done to provide better protections for shopworkers, we are still pushing for a timetable.

“I note that the Minister accepted that legislation may be necessary and if so the Government would provide time in Parliament for its passage. We intend to hold the Minister to that and the Government can be assured that we will be providing extensive evidence of the need for legal protections to tackle the scourge of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.

“The statistics from our survey are shocking, tonight was a missed opportunity and our campaign continues. Shopworkers are on the frontline of helping to keep our communities safe, they have a crucial role that must be valued and respected.”

Usdaw yesterday released shocking new statistics showing that incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers are an increasing problem. Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Survey shows that during 2018: Nearly two-thirds of shopworkers experienced verbal abuse, over 40% were threatened by a customer, with over 280 assaulted every day. After a large increase in 2017, this represents a further increase in incidents against shopworkers.

The Offensive Weapons Bill aims to help keep knives and corrosives off our streets and we know that enforcing the law around age-restricted products is a leading trigger for abuse and violence against shopworkers. Usdaw is calling for Peers to protect shopworkers who will be enforcing the new law.

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.
 
Results of Usdaw’s 2018 survey, based on 6,725 responses, show that in 2018: 63.82% were verbally abused, 40.35% were threatened. 12.11% of shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 283 assaults per day during 2018.

For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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