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Government responds to Usdaw petition with little more than sympathy on abuse of shop workers

Date: 16 September 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw is disappointed but not surprised by today’s Government response to a parliamentary petition that seeks to protect retail staff from violence, threats and abuse with little more than sympathy. Usdaw continues to campaign for 100,000 signatures that should trigger a parliamentary debate.
Launched by shop workers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis, it became the fastest growing petition on the parliamentary website when it passed 10,000 signatures in one day. The petition now has over 62,000 signatures and can be signed at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328621
 
The petition is backed by the UK’s largest convenience store retailer Co-op Food, along with the industry’s leading trade bodies the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We deeply disappointed by the Government’s response to the petition. This is a hugely important issue for our members and their local communities, with incidents of abuse doubling during the Covid-19 crisis. Shop workers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job.
 
“At a time when the Government is rightly increasing sentences for those who assault emergency service workers, and we congratulate them for that, they don’t appear to understand the role retail workers have in helping to keep our communities safe, preventing crime and anti-social behaviour.
 
“Shop workers are on the frontline of policing age restricted sales, a major flashpoint for violence, threats and abuse. Imagine the chaos and criminality that would be inflicted on communities if the sale of alcohol, knives, glue, fireworks and other dangerous items were not policed by retail staff. Yet the Government will not give shop workers extra protection when carrying out those duties. In fact it is the shop worker who is most likely to be prosecuted or disciplined if they make a mistake.
 
“We now continue to campaign for the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a parliamentary debate and we hope that, as the Government has failed to listen, MPs will hear the voices of shop workers, their constituents and employers and back legislating for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. Retail staff play a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”
 
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with nearly 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.
 
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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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers