Addressing the annual conference, Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary said:
“The last two years has shown just how crucial effective health and safety is to every workplace. It has been the previous efforts of trade unions in campaigning for proper health and safety protections which have underpinned our response to the pandemic. Usdaw remains committed to ensuring that employers take health and safety seriously.
“Many of the important protections which the Conservatives so frequently write off as simply 'red-tape', such as the Working Time Directive or access to PPE were previously guaranteed by the EU. However, now that we have left, we need to find alternative ways of protecting the measures which are so important to our members. Usdaw remains committed to defending these protections.
“I'm sure we all hope that we never have to live and work though another pandemic, but it is right that we learn from everything we have been through in the last two years and make plans to ensure workers are properly protected should such a situation ever arise again.
“Trade unions played a crucial role in developing the policy that protected workers during the Coronavirus pandemic. Usdaw, in partnership with the British Retail Consortium, developed much of the guidance and measures that became commonplace on our high streets. Measures such as: Perspex screens, hygiene stations at store entrances, social distancing markers on floors and at tills and limits on the number of customers in stores.
“It is also vital that these measures were supported with additional security trained staff, ensuring they were followed and dealing with those who refused to respect the rules. The lessons we learned from the pandemic means that, for many issues, we already know what needs to be done. What is essential is that these lessons are not forgotten.
“Usdaw's Freedom From Fear Campaign highlights the sheer scale of violence, threats and abuse faced by workers. Throughout the pandemic there has been a disgraceful increase in the level of abuse faced by retail workers and Usdaw is clear that this must be a priority issue for both Government and employers.
“We have also worked to ensure that employers have invested more in tackling the issue. We have seen the implementation of body cameras in many stores, as well as additional security during the pandemic. However, retail workers still face significant abuse simply as a result of going to work. Usdaw is committed to keeping all our members safe, day in day out, while they are carrying out their roles at work.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 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.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion