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Heart Unions Week: Usdaw campaigning with reps and members secures protection of workers legislation

Date: 14 February 2022 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is celebrating achievements for members during Heart Unions Week, 14 to 20 February 2022, an annual event organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
After two decades of the Freedom from Fear campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, Usdaw secured legislative success in the Scottish Parliament and Westminster last year. At the beginning of last year, Holyrood passed the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021. At the end of last year, the House of Lords voted for a protection of workers amendment that put into statute a sentencing aggravating factor that recognises the public-facing role of the victim.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Violence, threats and abuse have long been a major issue for shopworkers, which is why Usdaw launched the Freedom from Fear Campaign in 2003. Shockingly, incidents during the pandemic became much worse, with our survey finding they had doubled at the beginning of the first lockdown. So Government action was long overdue.
 
“After extensive campaigning by our reps and members, including achieving over 100,000 petition signatures, we secured a breakthrough in Holyrood and Westminster. Scottish Labour’s Daniel Johnson MSP successfully steered through his private members bill and earned unanimous support. Labour’s frontbench, with cross-party support, pushed the Government, after years of resistance, to act to toughen sentencing for those who assault workers.
 
“Our campaign also has an industrial focus, with an army of Usdaw health and safety reps risk assessing workplaces and negotiating improvements with local management. At national level the union worked with retail employers to improve company policies and jointly campaign for Government action. A coalition across the retail sector was built, with the support of the Co-op, British Retail Consortium, Association of Convenience Stores and over 100 major retailers. Combined we proved to be an influential force that persuaded Ministers to support Usdaw’s campaign.
 
“The campaign priorities for this year are to continue monitoring the levels of abuse our members suffer, examining the effectiveness of the new legislation and encouraging our members to report the incidents they experience. It is very worrying that nearly half of shopworkers are not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference, with 7% of those who had been assaulted not reporting the incident. So our message to members is clear, if they report it we can help sort it.
 
“Throughout ‘Heart Unions’ week, Usdaw, along with the TUC, is celebrating the positive contribution trade union members make to the UK economy and wider society, while highlighting the benefits of trade union membership.”
 
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 360,000 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.
 
Heart Unions’ week: www.tuc.org.uk/heartunions 14 to 20 February 2022 highlights the positive contribution that trade unions make in workplaces and across wider society.
 
Join Usdaw: www.usdaw.org.uk/Join-Us
 
Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2021/6
 
Amendment 84 to the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill – Lords Hansard 15 December 2021: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-12-15/debates/28547EAD-5F85-4D84-AC8E-1A19CC359B20/PoliceCrimeSentencingAndCourtsBill#contribution-8416AF16-070D-409D-B0EC-0C373BC7A3F3
 
Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2021 survey, based on 3,464 responses, show that: 89.26% were verbally abused, 64.46% were threatened. 21.59% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career. 10.82% had been assaulted this year. Asked “On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference” 46.35% scored less than five out of ten. 7.35% of those who’d been assaulted didn’t report it.
 
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign: www.usdaw.org.uk/fff
 
For further information please contact Usdaw’s Media Officer, David Williams on: 0161 249 2469, 07798 696 603 or by e-mail to [email protected]
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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