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Stronger Together fringe meeting: Labour, Usdaw and the Co-op Party combine to call for respect for shopworkers

Date: 26 September 2021 Retail trade union leader Paddy Lillis today joined a panel of speakers at a Labour conference fringe meeting on safe and secure communities. Under the umbrella of the ‘Stronger Together: Britain in 2030’ report the meeting was chaired by Anneliese Dodds MP.
On the panel was Nick Thomas-Symonds MP (Shadow Home Secretary), Steve Reed MP (Shadow Communities Secretary), Emily Spurrell (Merseyside PCC), Cllr Nesil Caliskan (Enfield Council Leader) and Anna Birley (Co-op Party).
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP said: “If ever we lived in a period when people didn’t feel safe and secure in their communities then that time is now, because the Conservatives have comprehensively failed. We cannot have a situation where people are afraid to go out after dark and we cannot have a situation where shopworkers are afraid of the physical and verbal abuse they have at the tills.
“Only 7 out of every 100 violent crimes get to court. So don’t ever tell me the Conservatives are the party of law and order, they are the party of crime and disorder. We are the party that understands that to bring crime down you have to tackle crime and its causes. Opposition is a very frustrating place, we can exert pressure, but the kind of systemic fundamental changes we need could only be brought about by a Labour Government.”
Anna Birley said: “Thriving town centres are not beyond reach, but they do require effort, which is best driven by local communities. Town centres need to be a safe space to shop, nobody wants to go shopping where they feel harassed or where they know violence happens on a daily basis. So community safety and local economic success go hand-in-hand.
“We’ve been working in partnership with Usdaw and Co-op businesses around the country to tackle the problem of violence against shopworkers. Our retail workers are on the frontline every day and they’ve been on the frontline throughout this crisis. So we’re really proud of the work in Scotland, led by Daniel Johnson MSP, to make violence against shopworkers a specific offence, which is an inspiration for the kind of change in the law we need to see across the UK.”
Paddy Lillis - Usdaw General Secretary said: “It’s absolutely right that safer communities are central to our policy agenda. All of us care about safety in our communities and at the heart of so many communities are shops and the people working in them. This has been highlighted even more during the pandemic. Yet, all too often, the efforts of retail workers are met with abusive customers, threats of violence and physical assault.
“Usdaw’s latest evidence shows that 92% of retail workers have been abused in the last 12 months and that one in seven have been physically assaulted. While the pandemic may have brought more attention to the issues faced by retail workers, these issues existed long before the pandemic began. Tory cuts to police and community funding have resulted in higher levels of both retail crime and anti-social behaviour and it is workers on the frontline who are now paying the price.
“Usdaw, Labour, the Co-op Party and many other key stakeholders continue to campaign for the creation of a specific offence of abusing, threatening or assaulting a retail worker. In Scotland, we have achieved this with an Act put forward by Daniel Johnson MSP. We have shown that it can be done, now we need the same protection in the rest of the UK and I am pleased to say we have Labour support.
“As well as tackling crime, we also know that safe and secure communities need strong and secure employment opportunities. Over the last ten years, over one million high street jobs have been lost and last year alone over 16,000 retail stores closed down. The crisis in the retail sector has left rows of empty shops on our high streets and made our communities more vulnerable to poverty and destitution.
“Usdaw is clear that any discussion on safe and secure communities must include plans on how to revitalise our high streets and ensure they remain focal points. That is another reason why Usdaw welcomes the work of the Stronger Together programme; another reason why we need to be unified in our vision of thriving local communities, and another reason why we need to be relentless in our efforts to deliver a Labour Government.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 380,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
Stronger Together - Britain in 2030: https://labour.org.uk/stronger-together/britain-2030
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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