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Petition on abuse of shop workers is backed by retail employers - Usdaw welcomes the support and calls on the Government to listen

Date: 19 August 2020 Retail trade union leader Paddy Lillis has welcomed the support of retail employers and their representative bodies for his parliamentary petition launched today, calling on the Government to support legislation to protect shop workers from violence, threats and abuse.
Retail employers and Usdaw had provided significant evidence to the Government about the scale of assaults and abuse of shopworkers, which was already rising and has become much worse during the pandemic. The Government’s response was to propose some measures that are welcomed, but they stopped short of new legislation. So the campaign for a law to protect shop workers continues and the petition can be signed at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328621
 
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retail staff have been key workers in the fight against coronavirus. Yet every day colleagues are abused and assaulted at work. This is completely unacceptable and we need Parliament to pass legislation to provide better protection to retail workers. 
“Retail violence harms victims, their colleagues, their families and their communities. I hope everyone will rally round our retail heroes and sign this important petition to help put an end to this scourge.”
 
Jo Whitfield, Chief Executive, Co-op Food, said: “Throughout the pandemic, our colleagues on the front line have been selfless as they continue to serve their communities throughout this unprecedented time. The level of crime and anti-social behaviour is at unacceptable levels, and we know that it is often when colleagues are carrying out their public duties and upholding the law, such as with age-related sales, that they face heightened risk of abuse and violence.  They deserve to be treated with respect and facing this abuse is not and should not be part of the job.  
 
“I’m deeply concerned about the lasting impact of abuse on shopworkers, both mentally and physically.  That’s why I’ve been calling for greater protection to be written into legislation for shopworkers, through the creation of a specific offence that would carry greater penalties for violence and abuse.  As valued key workers, it is important that we send a signal throughout our society that this is unacceptable to treat them this way. It’s time to draw a line in the sand – and by taking legislative action, Government can show that they have listened and acted upon the concerns that I know are shared right the way across the retail sector.”
 
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Local shops are a lifeline for the communities that they serve, and this has been particularly evident during the Covid-19 crisis where our colleagues have worked tirelessly to ensure that they can continue to feed their customers. It is unacceptable that our colleagues are facing violence and abuse whilst trying to do their job, these incidents are devastating for the colleagues affected.
 
“Enough is enough, we need the Government to take effective and urgent action to protect shop workers and send a clear message to perpetrators that violent and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.”
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “I am grateful to the employers for supporting the petition. When the trade union for shop workers and retailers unite in a call for action, it should be time for the Government to sit up, listen to our concerns and deliver much needed protection for staff. Abuse must never be just a part of the job.
 
“I urge the Government not to dismiss my petition, but to listen to the voices of shop workers and employers by legislating for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. They have talked about zero-tolerance, but that means very little if it is not backed up by strong actions.
 
“The measures the Government have agreed are worth trying and we hope that they can make a real difference. However they would be much more likely to succeed if backed up with new legislation; a simple standalone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.”
 
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.
 
BRC (British Retail Consortium) is the trade association for retail businesses representing over 5,000 businesses delivering £180bn of retail sales and employing over one and half million employees.
 
Co-op Food is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, owned by millions of members. They are the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer with more than 2,500 local, convenience and medium-sized stores.
 
ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) represents over 33,500 local shops,
including a diverse range of convenience store retailers, from stand-alone family run independent stores to multiple convenience stores.
 
Results of Usdaw’s Coronavirus survey, based on 4,928 responses from shopworkers across the UK, shows that between 14 March and 17 April 2020: 62.28% were verbally abused, 29.07% were threatened, 4.01% assaulted. When extrapolated over circa 3,000,000 retail workers, this amounts to over 3,538 assaults per day. Usdaw believes this is an underestimation because the survey analysis assumes each respondent was only assaulted once and it was conducted in mainly larger trade union organised stores, which tend to be safer than smaller non-unionised workplaces.
 
Violence and Abuse Toward Shop Staff – Government Response: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/903433/260620_Violence_and_assaults_against_shopworkers_-_Publication_of_Call_for_Evidence_Response.pdf
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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