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Abuse, threats and violence against shopworkers remain high, confidence in reporting incidents is low - Usdaw annual survey results published

Date: 03 March 2022 Retail trade union Usdaw has today published shocking statistics from their annual survey of nearly 3,500 retail staff, which show that in the last twelve months:
  • 90% have experienced verbal abuse.
  • 64% were threatened by a customer.
  • 12% were assaulted.
  • 61% said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference. 
Usdaw annual survey full results: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFsurvey2021
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is shocking that 9 in 10 of our members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Particularly concerning is the one-third increase in assaults, up from 9% in 2020 to 12% in 2021. So it is extremely worrying that nearly two-thirds are not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.
“Violence and abuse is not an acceptable part of the job and it is truly horrific that shopworkers are having to face it on a daily basis. Although the situation is bleak, there are some early signs that our work with retail employers may be starting to make a difference.
“The Protection of Workers Act came into force in Scotland in August 2021. By the end of the year nearly 300 cases were under investigation by the Scottish Police. While we still do not have similar laws for England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the Westminster Government has given its support to an amendment to their Policing Bill that would make violence against workers a statutory aggravating factor when sentencing.
“However, faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse, and with shopworkers’ almost complete lack of confidence in the ability of the system to give them the protection they need, much more needs to be done. The Government must provide the co-ordination needed to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safe places for our members to work and for customers to shop.”
Voices from the frontline: Some of the comments from shopworkers responding to Usdaw’s annual survey:
  • “Customer in his 60’s waited for me to finish my shift then tried to stab me at the bus stop because he had been made to wait in a queue outside the shop.”
  • “I work as an internet shopping picker. Customers will be rude and vent their frustration on you, saying you’re in their way, you are picking the food they need, you shouldn’t be picking all the food off the shelves. They swear at you and say they are paying your wages. Not all customers are like this but when you are picking they let you know they don’t appreciate you being there.”
  • “Customer walked me into a corner and threatened my life for not stopping a maskless customer entering the store.”
  • “My employer gives apologies and £50 gift cards to customers who complain, even if these complaints have been found to be unsubstantiated. Would be great if they would ask for our side of the story and evidence before rewarding abusive customers and apologising to them.”
  • “After being spat at, then 4 weeks later physically assaulted, I walked out and went on sick for 8 weeks, had to go onto medication for anxiety and had a breakdown.” 
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.
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear
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
Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2021/6
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