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Over a million shopworkers assaulted, threatened or abused every year says Usdaw

Date: 13 October 2010 Usdaw has released preliminary results from their annual survey of abuse, threats and violence against shopworkers that reveal over a million shopworkers have been assaulted, threatened or abused in the last year.

The survey shows that in the past 12 months, 6% of shopworkers were subjected to violent attack, 37% were threatened with harm and a massive 70% had suffered verbal abuse. While reported incidents of assault are slightly down, incidents of threats and abuse have increased since last year.

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:

"These figures are once again quite shocking and show that Usdaw's Freedom from Fear campaign is needed more than ever."

"Our campaign, working in partnership with employers, government, police and other agencies has made a real difference and the workplaces where we organise are probably the safest in retail. However, the sad fact remains that every minute of every working day a shopworker is verbally abused, threatened with violence or physically attacked. It is simply unacceptable."

"We need to improve peoples' attitude toward shopworkers to tackle the root of the problem. Too many people still think working in retail is not a proper job and that this somehow gives them the right to abuse shopworkers with impunity. Shopworkers are mothers, sons, sisters, grandparents, working hard to earn a living just like in any other workplace. They should never have to fear going to work nor face violence, threats or abuse for doing their job."

"Usdaw is holding an event in Westminster today to impress on Members of Parliament the seriousness of the issue and we will be inviting MPs to get behind a checkout and experience for themselves the difficult situations our members face every day."

"We will also leave MPs in no doubt that we expect Lord Young's forthcoming review of Health and Safety legislation to seriously address these real issues of concern for our members. Shops are not the most dangerous of workplaces but there are over a million shopworkers who can tell Lord Young they are certainly not 'non-hazardous'."

Notes for Editors:

1. The initial results quoted above are derived from 1,200 responses received from Usdaw members and other shopworkers between July and September this year.

2. Over 2.9 million people work in retail. Assuming that only 60% of these are shopworkers directly serving the public, if the survey results are extrapolated, it means there have been well over a million incidents of assault, threats or abuse against the UK's shopworkers in the last 12 months.

3. Usdaw's Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. It has four main aims:

  • to negotiate with employers for safety and security improvements in stores.
  • to campaign with Government for policies to help tackle retail crime and anti-social behaviour in shopping areas.
  • to raise awareness with the shopping public that violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers is unacceptable behaviour.
  • to give shopworkers the confidence to speak out and not accept abuse as just a part of the job.

4. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest trade union, with over 390,000 members. Usdaw is the country's fastest growing trade union; membership has increased by more than 15% in the last four years and by over a quarter in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers