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Shocking survey shows life is tough on the retail frontline of the Coronavirus Emergency - Usdaw calls for a new deal

Date: 29 April 2020 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has today published the results of an online survey of members about the impact of Coronavirus in the workplace. It provides an in-depth look at the working life of our key workers ensuring food supplies are maintained at this time of crisis.
The findings are shocking and should be a wake-up call to everyone, especially for the Government. Usdaw’s ‘Impact of Coronavirus’ survey is of 7,357 members, primarily essential workers in shops, distribution warehouses, road transport or work as delivery drivers. Key findings include:
  • 70% are experiencing anxiety and raised concerns with their employer.
  • Many key workers are struggling on low pay and are applying for Universal Credit and benefits to make ends meet.
  • 29% have had Covid-19 related absences from work, because of illness, self-isolating or shielding.
  • Abuse of shopworkers has doubled during the Coronavirus emergency.
Full Survey results: www.usdaw.org.uk/CoronavirusReport

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “I have never known a single issue cause nearly three-quarters of our members to raise concerns with their employer in such a short space of time. Our survey reveals that increased abuse in shops, higher rates of illness, greater levels of job insecurity and issues with the benefits system are putting immense pressure on many Usdaw members who are key workers.

“Shopworkers and their colleagues in the retail food supply chain are on the frontline of feeding the country during the current crisis. They are providing an essential service in very difficult circumstances, working long hours in busy stores, facing abuse from customers and of course concerned they may contract Covid-19 and pass it on to their family.

“The health and wellbeing of workers is paramount. Usdaw continues to work with employers to make sure there are effective measures in place to protect staff, but this survey clearly shows there is a lot more still to be done to ensure employees feel as safe as possible throughout this pandemic. Many respondents commented that they felt increasingly stressed and anxious and expressed concerns about the long term impact on their mental health. 

“Employers need to listen to their staff and have a real and meaningful dialogue with their workforce. There are still too many employers who refuse to engage with trade unions, at a time when we need to be working together to get through this crisis.  I pay tribute to our volunteer reps in workplaces across the country who have been helping members through the crisis and dealing with an unprecedented level of issues.

“Our survey has shown that many of the key workers keeping our society going in this pandemic are low-paid, with insecure hours and few employment rights. They have been undervalued for too long and workers carrying out essential roles deserve a new deal.”

Usdaw is calling for a new deal for workers:
  • The National Minimum Wage to be immediately increased to at least £10 per hour.
  • Guaranteed working hours. A minimum 16 hours per week for everyone who wants it, based on the normal hours worked and an end to zero hours contracts.
  • Respect for Shopworkers through ‘Protection of Workers’ legislation that will tackle abuse against workers dealing with the public.
  • More support for low-paid workers through improved sick pay and a proper social security system instead of the current Universal Credit mess.
  • A real voice at work with trade unions being recognised in the workplace.
Voices from the frontline:

“I feel like we’ve been given a huge responsibility and I know that some of my colleagues have had to deal with abuse. It seems like we’ve taken on the additional roles of security guards. As a PTSD sufferer, I find going into work a little stressful, especially as I’ve been taken off the department I usually work on and have had to learn other roles/skills in the shop very quickly.”

“I feel frightened when I go to work in case I catch something and take it home to my elderly mother, I don't look forward to going to work at the moment.”

“Work has become mentally draining in a way I have never experienced before. Every shift feels like a constant fight. My colleagues and I are exhausted and feel so deflated. We notice that customers will distance from each other but not from us, which makes us feel like we're not even human. It has been demoralising.”

“As a worker who suffers with mental health issues I am finding it extremely hard to cope in the work place with the added anxiety that Coronavirus has brought.”

Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 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.
Usdaw’s ‘Impact of Coronavirus’ survey of 7,357 members took place online and looks at a 34 day period from 14 March. The full results of the survey are available at: www.usdaw.org.uk/CoronavirusReport
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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