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London Assembly supports Usdaw campaign to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse

Date: 06 November 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed London Assembly support for the union’s Freedom From Fear campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.
The successful motion, proposed by Unmesh Desai AM (Labour, City and East) and seconded by Léonie Cooper AM (Labour & Co-op, Merton and Wandsworth), expressed concern about the level of abuse and violence against shopworkers and called on the Government to support The Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill, which is backed by Usdaw and 23 major retailers.

In response to continued growing assaults, threats and abuse against shopworkers and the doubling of incidents during the coronavirus emergency, shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis launched a parliamentary petition, which can be signed at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328621

Paddy Lillis- Usdaw General Secretary says: “London’s Usdaw members are grateful for the support of Unmesh Desai, Léonie Cooper and all assembly members who voted for the motion. We were deeply disappointed by the Government’s response to our petition, offering little more than sympathy. It added insult to injury that they objected to legislation that would better protect shopworkers. So it is a real boost to add the London assembly to the growing and broad coalition of support for our campaign.

“We urge the Government to turn their words of sympathy into action, listen to the voices of shopworkers and legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. When retailers and the trade union for shop workers jointly call for action, it is time for the Government to listen to our concerns and deliver much needed protection for staff. Abuse must never be just a part of the job.”

London voices from the frontline during the pandemic:
East: “Coughed at and shouted at.” - “Was physically attacked by a shoplifter at front of store, no police attended.” - “Some customers are nice but others are rude and pushy making me feel depressed and pressured.”
North: “Screaming and shouting because they can't have a refund.” - “I’m scared of going to work.” - “Just customers being disrespectful and arguing about rules that have been put in place in store.”
South: “Customer shouting at me because he had to wait 6 minutes to be served made me feel very uneasy.” - “It’s been stressful having rude customers almost every shift.” - “Customer used indecent language to me, called bitch.”
West: “Life was threatened and was told by customer they would get me if they saw me outside.” - “Been held up by a guy with a dirty needle.” - “Shop lifter pushed me on floor three times.”

Motion 3.9 - London Assembly Plenary - Thursday 5 November 2020: “This Assembly notes with concern that shopworkers are frequently the targets of threats, abuse and assaults, and that since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the volume of such threats, abuse and assaults on shopworkers has more than double compared with 2019 – to the point where the average worker is subject to an incident of this kind every 6.5 days. This Assembly further notes the important role played by shopworkers as key workers in our society, something which became clear to us all during the most restrictive phase of the lockdown. This Assembly also notes the importance of social distancing and wearing face coverings in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and that shopworkers are often attacked for enforcing the Government restrictions. This Assembly believes that all workers have the right to do their work without being at risk of threat, abuse or assault and that the current situation faced by shopworkers is absolutely unacceptable and to be condemned. This Assembly supports The Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill as proposed by Alex Norris MP and subsequently objected to by the Government with the second reading delayed to 30 October 2020. The Bill calls to make certain offences, including malicious wounding, grievous or actual bodily harm and common assault, aggravated when perpetrated against a retail worker in the course of their employment. The Bill is supported by 23 major British retailers and the sector’s leading industry bodies. This Assembly calls on the Mayor of London to write to the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, and urge her to introduce legislation that creates a specific offence of threatening, abusing or assaulting a shopworker, carrying a sufficient penalty to act as a deterrent and address this shameful situation.” https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/londonassembly/meetings/documents/s86462/07%20Motions.pdf

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.
Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill, promoted by Alex Norris MP (Labour/Co-op, Nottingham North) was timetabled for its second reading in the House of Commons, but the Government objected to it progressing and is now delayed until at least Friday 8 January 2021. 23 major British retailers and the sector’s leading industry bodies wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to provide effective legal protection for shop workers in the face of increasing levels of abuse and violence and in support of the Bill. https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-21/assaultsonretailworkersoffences.html
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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