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Respect for Shopworkers: Usdaw and Co-op joined by the Mayor of London at a Freedom From Fear Summit

Date: 12 November 2019 Shopworkers trade union Usdaw partnered with convenience food retailer Co-op Group, at the beginning of Respect for Shopworkers Week, to organise a summit of retailers to co-ordinate efforts to tackle violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.
Forming part of Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign, respect week will see union representatives around the country organising events to encourage shoppers to “Keep Your Cool”, reminding them that abuse is not part of the job.
 
The Co-op, which last year launched its own Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities initiative, is calling upon the Government to take radical action to help better protect shop workers in the face of a retail crime ‘epidemic’.
 
Research released by Dr Emmeline Taylor last month showed that violence in the sector is at its highest level since 2012, with latest statistics showing that workers fall victim to 42,000 violent incidents with 115 colleagues physically attacked every day.
 
A Home Office ‘call for evidence’ to aid the Government’s understanding of the problem received feedback from many retailers and shopworkers, but is yet to report. A joint letter to the Home Secretary and other Ministers from Usdaw and retailers recommended:
  • Tougher sentences for those who attack shopworkers.
  • Change to the out of court disposals system (e.g. fixed penalty notices) which is failing to have an impact on reoffending.
  • A full review into the response of police forces to incidents of violence in the retail.
The full letter can be viewed at: www.usdaw.org.uk/RetailViolenceLetter
 
Dave McCrossen - Usdaw’s Deputy General Secretary said: “We launch Usdaw’s 2019 Respect for Shopworkers’ Week as violence, threats and abuse continue to be growing issues for retail staff. We have been working with a number of employers to tackle abuse against retail staff and campaigning with politicians, police forces and the Home Office on the impact of violence against shopworkers.
 
“As a result of the Government’s austerity programme 20,000 police officers have been taken off the streets, meaning that over 40% of retail workers have never seen a police officer patrolling their store. Government changes have also meant that shoplifting under the value of £200 is now unlikely to be dealt with as crime or anti-social behaviour. Not only is this appalling threshold actively encouraging so called ‘low-level’ crime, it also completely fails to account for the impact that retail crime has on the workforce.
 
“Usdaw is committed to campaigning for an Assaults on Retail Workers Bill. At the same time, we need to ensure that there are enough police officers on the streets to be able to enforce the law. Shopworkers already start to believe that abuse is now an expected part of the job and that there is nothing that can be done about it. Usdaw is clear that abuse is not part of the job.”
 
Jo Whitfield - Co-op Food’s Chief Executive, said: “Shop workers across the UK should be able to go to work every day, safe in the knowledge that they will not be attacked, abused or made to feel unsafe. Sadly this is not a true reflection of what’s happening in stores up and down the country and I am here, on behalf of my Co-op colleagues, to support Usdaw as we stand together and say: enough is enough.
 
“Co-op research shows that store crime has reached intolerable levels. Whilst the retail industry is doing everything in its power to prevent attacks, five months on from the Home Office’s own call for evidence we are calling upon the Government, along with law enforcers, to accelerate action to help us develop a strategy which can address this epidemic of violence. Systemic change is needed to address not just the symptoms, but the root cause. We cannot wait any longer.”
 
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m proud to support Usdaw’s excellent campaign to help keep shopworkers safe. It’s simply unacceptable that, for every minute of the working day, a shopworker is verbally abused, threatened with violence or physically attacked. Nobody should have to go to work fearful for their own safety. That’s why I applaud Usdaw, the Co-op and everyone in the retail sector who is sending out the message that threatening behaviour and abuse towards shopworkers will not be tolerated.”
 
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 410,000 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.
 
Dr Emmeline Taylor’s research for the Co-op’s Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities report, entitled “It’s not part of the job”: https://assets.ctfassets.net/5ywmq66472jr/22QfMejeWYbimJ9ykX9W9h/0e99f15c0ed24c16ab74d38b42d5129a/It_s_not_part_of_the_job_report.pdf
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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