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Prime Minister says 'zero-tolerance' of violence against shop workers, but fails to back words with action says Usdaw

Date: 08 July 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw today criticised the Prime Minister for failing to back a new law to protect shop workers from violence, even if measures announced by the Government yesterday fail to stem the growing levels of abuse, with incidents doubling during the coronavirus emergency. Usdaw calls for a firm commitment from the Government to take all available actions to tackle the issue.
It took over a year for the Home Office to respond to evidence on violence against shopworkers. Usdaw surveying estimates that over 150,000 shop workers had been assaulted in that time. Usdaw responded, along with a broad range of retailers, calling for a new law to tackle this growing problem.
 
Call for Evidence – Violence and Abuse Toward Shop Staff - Government Response: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-and-abuse-toward-shop-staff-call-for-evidence
 
Alex Norris MP (Labour, Nottingham North) today welcomed the measures proposed in the Government response, during Prime Minister’s Question Time, but asked if the Government would support a change in the law if they were shown not to have worked.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Zero-tolerance is easy to say, but means very little if it is not backed up by actions. We are deeply disappointed that the Government and now the Prime Minister have not backed legislating for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. They have failed to listen to the voices of shop workers and retailers, who had jointly called for a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.
 
“We recognise that there are a series of measures in the Government response that are worth trying and we hope that they can make a real difference. They would be much more likely to succeed if they were backed up with new legislation, but it is clear that the Government is desperately trying to avoid that. Today the Prime Minister had a chance to show he has confidence in the Government’s approach, by promising new legislation if it fails, but he ducked it.
 
“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law. We are shocked that violence, threats and abuse have doubled during this national emergency. At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a disgrace that the people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted. Our message is clear, abuse is not part of the job.”
 
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.
 
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.
 
Usdaw’s consultation response:www.usdaw.org.uk/UsdawEvidence
Usdaw’s call for Government action has been backed by retailers and their representative organisations. A joint letter to the Home Secretary and other Ministers recommends:
  • Tougher sentences for those who attack shopworkers.
  • Change to the out of court disposals system (eg 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 sector.
The full letter can be viewed at: www.usdaw.org.uk/RetailViolenceLetter
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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