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Usdaw welcomes retailers' action to keep shop staff safe

Date: 14 May 2012 The shopworkers' Union Usdaw has welcomed the latest move by the country's top retailers to ensure the best possible measures are in place to protect shop staff from violence and abuse.

The British Retail Consortium has today (Monday 14 May) published a new best practice guide for employers, which aims to increase awareness of the impact that violence against staff has on employees and to challenge the perception that abuse of shopworkers is acceptable.

The guidelines called 'Tackling Violence Against Staff' are endorsed by Usdaw and show the extent of the action being taken by retailers to keep their staff safe. These include having clear policies against violence and abuse, robust store based risk assessments, appropriate store layout, security and preventative measures, good staff training and reporting procedures and providing support for staff after incidents.

Usdaw's Freedom From Fear campaign against violence and abuse of shopworkers was launched ten years ago and has succeeded in raising the profile of the issue and led to employers, Government, police and others taking action to help tackle the problem. While there have been significant breakthroughs in key areas to help prevent and reduce incidents, the Union's last survey conducted in 2010 still showed that in the previous 12 months 6% of shopworkers had been subjected to violent attack, 37% had been threatened with harm and a massive 70% had suffered verbal abuse.

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:

"Usdaw welcomes these guidelines. The BRC's support for the Union's Freedom from Fear campaign has been very helpful. Working together we have seen a significant reduction in serious assaults in the last five years."

"However we share the BRC's concern that reports of threats and verbal abuse have escalated and the rise in robberies over the last year shows that there is no room for complacency. Usdaw is committed to working with the BRC and with employers to make it clear that abuse is not part of the job."

"Usdaw also shares the BRC's concern about the response of the police and the criminal justice system to retail crime, particularly in view of the 20% cut to police budgets which will take 16,000 police officers and 1,800 PCSOs off our streets."

British Retail Consortium Head of Crime, Catherine Bowen, said:

"Retailers invest considerable resources in protecting their workers, stock and property. Protecting staff from violence means taking many factors into account, from the positioning of in-store CCTV to how those who do carry out attacks are prosecuted. Companies are doing a lot to prevent trouble occurring in the first place, for example by giving customer service staff training in how to avoid conflict."

"Our new guidelines will help businesses be sure they've done all they can to prevent staff from being attacked or abused. The question that remains is whether the police and criminal justice system are doing all within their power to protect the country's three million retail employees. Those who are violent or threatening towards our staff are as guilty of a crime as anyone who behaves that way on the street. The police response needs to reflect that."

Notes for Editors:

1. The BRC's 'Tackling Violence Against Staff - Best Practice Guidelines for Retailers' is available online.

2. 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.

3. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing trade union with over 415,000 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.

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