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Usdaw disappointed that the Government doesn't accept shopworkers' crucial role in enforcing the law

Date: 23 January 2019 Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis is disappointed that a Home Office Minister has today not accepted the crucial role shopworkers have in enforcing the law on age-restricted sales. However the union welcomes the offer of a meeting to explain why amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill, that will help protect shopworkers, should be accepted by the Government.
The Minister was responding to a debate initiated by a question from Baroness Kennedy of Cradely (Labour) who said: “It is a depressing fact that too many shopworkers suffer physical assault.” Referring to the Government’s offer of limited measures to address the issue, she continued, “They fall short in failing to recognise the need for specific legislation to make it an offence to assault a worker enforcing the new age-related restrictions on acid and knives set to come into force as a result of this Offensive Weapons Bill.” Baroness Kennedy went on to ask “why the Government won’t accept new legislation is needed” and called on the Government to meet with Usdaw and others in retail ahead of the report stage of the Offensive Weapons Bill.
Baroness Williams of Trafford, Home Office Minster (Conservative), agreed to meet with Usdaw. However, in responding to a question from Lord Paddick (Liberal Democrat) about protecting shopworkers who are enforcing the law, the Minister said, “I don’t agree they are acting as law enforcement officers”.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Shopworkers are on the frontline of helping to stem the scourge of knife crime and acid attacks. Their role should be valued, they deserve our respect, but most of all they deserve the protection of the law. It was disappointing to hear that the Minister doesn’t appear to recognise that and we look forward to meeting with her.
“Shopworkers will play a vital role in policing the sale of knives and corrosive substances, 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.
“Our proposals for the protection of shopworkers have received cross-party support from Peers and MPs, so we hoped the Government would support new legislation. While the measures they have outlined are a step in the right direction, we are still hoping that Peers will support amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill as it goes through the House of Lords.
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with around 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.
The Offensive Weapons Bill tightens the law on the sale of corrosive substances and knives in response to a significant increase in acid attacks and stabbings. Usdaw is calling on the Government to support amendments to the Bill that will provide greater protection for shopworkers who will enforce the new law at the point of sale. It is expected that the House of Lords Committee Stage will be taken on Monday.
Government’s proposed measures: Following a roundtable meeting on violence and abuse against shopworkers, Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins MP has written saying: “The Government intends to announce the following package when the Offensive Weapons Bill enters Committee stage in the House of Lords:
  • A call for evidence on violence and abuse towards shopworkers to help ensure we fully understand this issue and consider all options for addressing it.
  • Funding for the sector to run targeted communications activity to raise awareness of the existing legislation in place to protect shop workers.
  • Refreshing the work of the National Retail Crime Steering Group on violent crime.”
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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