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20% increase in shoplifting across Northern Ireland – Usdaw calls for a protection of shop workers’ law

Date: 06 June 2024 Retail trade union Usdaw is deeply concerned by today’s recorded crime statistics from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) showing a 19.6% uplift in shoplifting, in the year to the end of April, at a time when most other victim-based crimes are in decline. Usdaw is seeking Stormont support for a Scottish-style protection of shop workers’ law.
Usdaw’s latest annual survey of over 5,500 retail staff across the UK showed that 18% of shop workers suffered a violent attack last year, compared to 8% in 2022. Six in 10 respondents said that incidents of violence, threats and abuse they’d experienced were triggered by shoplifting and armed robbery. The increase in assaults comes during an epidemic of retail crime, with official statistics and reports from retailers showing significantly higher levels of theft from shops.
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is deeply disturbing for our members to see a significant increase in theft from shops, particularly when the trend for all other theft crimes is going down. Shoplifting has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shop workers.
“Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself, like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers. PSNI recording a near 20% increase in shoplifting is further evidence that we are facing an epidemic of retail crime, which is hugely concerning.
“Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals in stores, and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on. Our latest survey results show that 7 in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. 60% of respondents said theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for these incidents.
“The scale of assaults, abuse and threats towards shop workers and extent of the retail crime epidemic have been a disgrace for many years. We are seeking to meet with Stormont ministers to make progress on the introduction of a standalone offence for assaulting a retail worker, similar to legislation we successfully campaigned for in Scotland.
“Shop workers are key workers in every community. They need the protection of the law to get the respect that they have long deserved and regrettably too often do not receive.”
Northern Irish voices from the frontline: These are some of the comments shop workers in Northern Ireland shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:
  • “Spat at, potatoes thrown at me during evening shift. Drunk man called me a c**t when I refused his alcohol sale and tried to ram the trolley into me.”
  • “Had a basket of shopping thrown at me on the customer service desk.”
  • “Sexual assault, grabbed by customer, tried to kiss and getting in personal space.”
  • “We get verbally abused nearly every day, especially asking customers for ID.”
  • “Told to f*** off numerous times. Mostly doing Think 25.”
  • “Name calling and threats over things that were not within my control.”
  • “Working security been approached by two males saying I was looking at them. They said they would take me outside and kill me.”
  • “They screamed at me, called me a bitch and told me to f*** off.” 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is one of the fastest growing unions in the TUC and 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 www.usdaw.org.uk
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) - Recorded Crime Statistics: https://www.psni.police.uk/about-us/our-publications-and-reports/official-statistics/police-recorded-crime-statistics
Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shop workers and the Government.
Usdaw annual Freedom From Fear survey report: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2023
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