Usdaw calls for a more serious approach to retail crime

Date: 21 January 2013

Tens of thousands of retail staff are being subject to assault, threatening behaviour and verbal abuse, a new report has shown.

The latest evidence from employers' group the British Retail Consortium (BRC), as part of its annual Retail Crime Survey, shows that the number of incidents of crime rose across all categories except violence against staff and robbery. In total crime cost the sector £1.6 billion but 'dramatically fewer incidents are being reported to police'.

Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett said: "While we welcome the reduction in the number of incidents of violence against staff, 2012 still saw more than 28,700 retail workers attacked, threatened or verbally abused during the year ­– totally unacceptable. Every worker deserves to be treated with respect and should not have to put up with aggressive and abusive behaviour.

"We agree with the BRC that there is also a massive problem of under-reporting in the sector. It's clear that both employees and employers feel the police are not treating retail crime as seriously as they should be. So it's vital that we restore confidence in the police when dealing with retail crime. Our own figures show incidents of verbal abuse and threatening behaviour are still all too commonplace. We also know shoplifting is often a flashpoint and the most common trigger for violence against staff.

"To add insult to injury the Coalition has recently rushed through changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) which will see shopworkers who are innocent victims of violent crime receive little or no compensation for their injuries and trauma. In addition the Coalition has also cut police numbers significantly which we believe further exposes vulnerable staff.

 "We will continue to work with employers, the police – particularly the new Police & Crime Commissioners, and local authorities, as part of our Freedom From Fear campaign, to minimise risks, encourage reporting of all incidents and ensure staff are fully protected. Retail crime is not a victimless crime and abuse is definitely not part of the job."

Notes to Editors:

  1. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing trade union with over 424,000 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.
  2. For more information on the CICS visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/newsevents/news/2012/nov/governmentsshameasitcuts.aspx
  3. To view all Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
  4. For more information on Usdaw's award-winning Freedom From Fear campaign visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/freedomfromfear