The BRC says that, excluding
the August riots, the total number of reported incidents of verbal
abuse, threats and violence against shopworkers rose by 83% in
2011, driven by a more than three-fold increase in threats and a
five-fold increase in incidents of verbal abuse.
On a more positive note, the
total number of physical assaults against shopworkers reduced by
62.8% in 2011 and the total number of incidents remains on a
downward trend. Despite this year's increase, the BRC says the
total number of incidents against shopworkers has reduced by a
compound annual rate of 30% in the past 7 years.
The BRC attributes part of
the this year's overall increase to staff being encouraged to
report all threats and incidents of verbal abuse, although the
report also highlights the fact that retailers themselves still
continue to report less than half of all incidents of shoplifting
(46.9%) to the police.
The BRC's survey also
details the human cost of the riots and the appalling levels of
violence and fear of violence faced by shopworkers in August. In
total over more than 5,000 crimes were committed, including 1,860
incidents of arson and criminal damage, 1,649 burglaries, 141
incidents of disorder, 366 incidents of violence against the person
and 5 fatalities. The vast majority of employers (81.5%) said their
staff were fearful of violence with around a third reporting
incidents of physical and verbal violence against staff.
Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:
"The huge leap in reported
incidents of verbal abuse and threats against shopworkers is
extremely worrying and shows why we need to continue to work
closely with the BRC, employers, police and other agencies to
reduce all incidents of shop crime, create safer workplaces and
ensure offenders are brought to justice."
"While the reduction in the
number of assaults and continuing downward trend in the total
number of incidents is welcome news, our own survey figures
indicate there continues to be a significant problem of
under-reporting and that these figures remain the tip of a very
"Failure to report incidents
is driven by the myth that shop crime is 'victimless' and a belief
shared by many shopworkers and their employers that little if any
effective action will be taken against perpetrators. Shop crime is
never victimless and suffering abuse, threats and violence should
never be regarded as part of the job."
"Shopworkers need to have
real confidence that their employers, the police and the courts
will support them, particularly when so many incidents result from
staff themselves having to uphold the law by for example refusing
under-age sales or tackling shoplifters."
"The Government must also
ensure the police and courts have the resources to treat retail
crime seriously. The Tory-led coalition's 20% cut to police budgets
and the predicted loss of 16,000 frontline police officers and
1,800 PCSOs represent a real threat to the safety of shopworkers
and Usdaw will continue to campaign for these swingeing and
dangerous cuts to be reversed."
- The BRC's Retail Crime Survey 2011 can be found
- Usdaw's latest Freedom from Fear survey (conducted in 2010)
revealed that in the previous 12 months, 6% of shopworkers surveyed
had been subjected to violent attack, 37% had been threatened with
harm and a massive 70% had suffered verbal abuse. Nearly half of
all incidents of verbal abuse result from shopworkers asking
customers for proof of age ID or refusing a sale of an
age-restricted product such as alcohol or tobacco. Over 75% of
shopworkers have experienced problems when asking for proof of age
ID. For further information visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/ourcampaigns/freedomfromfear.aspx
- Usdaw's petition against the police cuts can be found at:
- Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is
the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing trade union with over
410,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the
last five years and by nearly a third 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.