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Scottish shopworkers are abused, threatened or assaulted on average over 17 times a year - Usdaw calls on MSPs to back Daniel Johnson's Bill

Date: 11 October 2019 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has today released shocking statistics from their annual survey which shows that an average Scottish shopworker is verbally abused, threatened or assaulted 17 times a year, which is more than once every three weeks.
While not all shopworkers suffer to this extent, some experience much higher levels of abuse, threats and violence. Usdaw’s ‘Freedom from Fear’ survey of over 1,000 retail staff shows that this year:
  • Over 60% of Scottish shopworkers experienced verbal abuse,
  • 32% were threatened by a customer,
  • 2.3% were assaulted, which amounts to more than 15 assaults every day across all of Scotland’s shopworkers.
Usdaw has called on the Scottish Government to back the Protection of Workers Bill promoted by Daniel Johnson MSP (Labour, Edinburgh Southern), which has been formally lodged with the Parliament today after an extensive consultation process. The Bill seeks to provide additional protections for retail staff, including those who sell age-restricted items. It is overwhelmingly backed by shopworkers and supported by the Scottish Retail Consortium, Co-op and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation.
 
Daniel Johnson MSP says: “I am delighted to see my bill officially introduced at the Scottish Parliament today after a meaningful consultation and drafting process. Abuse and threatening behaviour should not be part of the job, and with the busy Christmas shopping season fast approaching it is now more important than ever that this is recognised.”
 
“I believe this bill will secure the rights of all those workers who feel threatened at their place of work and will make it clear that such behaviour will not and should not be tolerated. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Usdaw and all those other trade unions and organisations that have worked with me and look forward to speaking with parliamentary colleagues as the bill makes its way through the necessary parliamentary stages.”
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers is totally unacceptable and we want the Scottish Government to act by supporting Daniel Johnson’s Bill. The statistics are shocking, showing that on average a Scottish shopworker can end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault more than once every three weeks. 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.
 
“There needs to be a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, 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.”
 
Jim McFedries, Scotmid Co-operative’s Head of Profit Protection, said: “Scotmid fully supports and welcomes the introduction of new legislation which will protect our colleagues from violence and abuse. Throughout this process, we’ve backed Daniel Johnson MSP’s Private Members Bill because it is time to put a stop to these alarming incidents that happen in our stores and across the industry.
 
“As a community convenience retailer, we strongly believe our staff should not be subjected to violence or anti-social behaviour when they are simply just doing their jobs. We strongly believe the introduction of this Private Members Bill will take a giant stride towards eradicating this ongoing issue for our colleagues and ultimately lead to a positive change.”
 
David Lonsdale – Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium says: “Incidents of abuse or violence towards retail employees is a growing problem, commonly triggered by shopworkers delivering what the State increasingly asks of them: enforcing age-restriction policies, refusing to serve intoxicated customers, or dealing with shop thieves. This abuse and violence is utterly deplorable. These are not victimless crimes, they have a huge impact on the skilled, passionate and determined individuals who make our industry such a vibrant place to work, and comes despite record spending by retailers on crime prevention. That’s why we are urging MSPs to respond positively and get behind Daniel Johnson’s Bill, to bring sentencing law into line with the reality on the ground.”
 
Voices from the Scottish 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 Scotland:
 
Alcohol: Aberdeen - “Customer under influence refused alcohol and become abusive and threatened staff.” Bellshill - “Because Scottish licencing laws are not clear to customers, I receive abuse on a regular occurrence.” Irvine - “Daily abuse from customers under the influence of drugs and alcohol”. Glasgow – “Couldn't sell alcohol before 10 am got an earful and told I'd ruined her life.” Aberdeenshire - “Refused customer alcohol as they were drunk they tried to grab my hair and grabbed hold of my shirt”
 
Age-restricted sales: Broxburn - “Customers very aggressive when refused sale of age restricted products, particularly alcohol.  They think it’s ok to shout and swear at you using language that is disgusting and personal insults.” Fife - “ID'd someone who looked about 19, called a 'ginger c**t'.” Fraserburgh - “Refused customer cigarettes and they started shouting and swearing”. Stranraer - “I was sworn at when I refused sale of  a  resisted item without ID”.
 
Throwing goods: Inverurie - “Customer threw items of their shopping at me as they were unhappy about the price” Aberdeen - “I asked some youths to leave the store and they started throwing things at me.” Dalkeith - “One time a customer threw a computer at the manager.” Stenhousemuir - “His scotch pie, was not hot, he threw it back st me, and it hit my face.
 
Sexual harassment: Fife - “Customer talking to members of staff inappropriately forcing members to be feel uncomfortable” Moray coast - “Usually more sexual harassment that makes me feel extremely threatened and unsafe” Glasgow - “Got flashed by a customer, have had customers grab me and comment on my breasts.”
 
Shoplifters: Fife - “Shoplifter tried to head-butt me” Braehead - “Chasing shoplifters - threatened with knife and syringes” Glasgow - “Shoplifter tried to head butt and kick me whilst he was being detained. Threatened to find my family using social media and slash their faces.”
 
Belittling: Wick - “Asked if I was stupid, spoken to like a child.” Dumfries - “I was asked if I was a  normal person or not.” Dunfermline - “A customer once told me he wished I’d go away and kill myself for trying to do my job helping him” Glasgow - “I have been called a fat cow and a jobs worth from shoplifters”.
 
Assault: Dingwall - “One customer elbowed me on purpose when I went past” Greenock - “Was attacked and a fag stubbed out on my face.” Stirling - “Shoplifter pushed me over dislocating shoulder”.
 
Verbal abuse: Dundee - “I have had customers shout at me if something doesn’t go right and called many names, such as b***h and c**t” Inverness - “A Woman was very upset about  our  lack of 10p bags and got verbally abusive.” Kilmarnock - “People being rude and bad mannered if they have to wait more than a minute in a queue”.
 
After work: Edinburgh - “I have been stopped in the street going home and verbally abused by a family member of a shoplifter that  I had caught previously that day. I feel very uncomfortable being put in that situation as these people know where I live and are known to be violent!” Irvine - “Got threatened to be done away with because I closing the store!” Glasgow - “Threat to be stabbed, have car smashed up, to be met when finished work, called names, spat at. The list goes on”.
 
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.
 
Scottish results of Usdaw’s 2019 survey, based on 1,027 responses, show that this year: 60.4% were verbally abused, 32.2% were threatened, 8% of shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 2.3% assaulted this year.
  
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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