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Jack Dromey MP to hear from shopworkers about concerns with violence, threats and abuse

Date: 05 May 2014 Jack Dromey MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Office Minister, will be hearing the experiences and concerns of Usdaw members working in retail who are all too often subjected to violence, threats and abuse in the course of their duties.

Mr Dromey is the keynote speaker for a fringe meeting at Usdaw’s Annual Delegate meeting in the Winter Gardens at Blackpool. The meeting is organised as part of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Campaign and takes place at 12.30pm on Tuesday 6 May.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: ‘We are delighted that Jack is taking the time to come and talk to our members who are campaigning for greater protection against assault for workers.

‘We have been very disappointed that on three occasions the Government has rejected a proposal to provide stiffer sentences for those who assault workers. Our members are now pinning their hopes on persuading the Shadow Minister to back the campaign and getting a Labour Government that will deliver.

‘Every day over 300 shopworkers are assaulted simply for doing their job. The Government’s warm words and sympathy are not enough, we need action because of the numerous examples of those assaulting shopworkers receiving lenient sentences or incidents not even being taken to court.

‘We are looking for a change in the law that will encourage more prosecutions and send a clear message to the public that assaulting a worker in the course of their duties is totally unacceptable.’

The meeting will hear from two Usdaw members, Barry from Rochdale and Grace from Blackpool, who have been assaulted in the course of their duties as well other cases from conference delegates attending the event.

Barry and Grace are available to speak to the media, although Barry only wants his first name to be used, and no photo showing his face as he is concerned about possible intimidation as the court case approaches.

Jack Dromey MP – Shadow Home Office Minister says: ’Shopworkers should be able to go to work and be treated with respect, not subjected to abuse and assault. This Government was wrong to reject our proposals to crack down on those who treat shopworkers shamefully. A Labour Government will act to strengthen the law to send an unmistakable message – shopworkers are entitled to freedom from fear.’

Notes for editors:

Protection of Workers Case Study – Barry, Rochdale

Barry was a Team Leader on the checkouts of a large supermarket in Rochdale.  The store only has one security guard, so Barry tended to step in and assist whenever a checkout assistant received abuse or had a problem. On Friday 18th October, Barry went to help when a gang of youths who had been refused a sale of alcohol and were racially abusing the Asian security guard.

The youths went away and Barry reported the incident to the police.  An officer came along but didn’t get out of the patrol car as the gang had gone. The next evening, another security guard was on duty and shouted for help as the same gang were approaching the store.

As Barry ran up, the youth in front started to spray liquid into the face of the black security guard. Barry was worried that the liquid was acid, so he tackled the youth to the ground. He then felt thuds to his upper torso but nothing more until he woke up in hospital 8 days later. Barry had suffered a severe heart attack, probably caused by a heavy kick to his chest.  He had to be ‘zapped’ with a defibrillator 5 times to re-start his heart.  His wife was called and told that it was unlikely he would make it.  He had also been kicked in the face and lost a molar tooth.

Of the two males and one female who took part in the assault:

  • The male who squirted liquid in the face of the security guard got a small fine.
  • Police apparently know that the woman took part in the assault on Barry, but do not have the evidence.
  • The other male is being taken to Crown Court and has to enter a plea by 29 May.

Protection of Workers Case Study – Grace Tipton, Blackpool

Grace works in a convenience store in Blackpool.  She was 23 at the time of the attack on her in August 2009. Grace was stock-taking in the store at 5.45pm, with just one other member of staff on duty, an 18-year old man. Two youths in hoods and scarves came into the store and approached Grace, asking for the key to the till.  She thought it was a prank and told them to s—off. They then pulled machetes out, and dragged Grace and the other assistant to the tills, with the machetes at their necks. They threatened to rape and kill her before opening the tills and making off with the cash (about £450).

The police visited her after the incident and told her that her attackers had travelled to Manchester by car where they were apprehended by Manchester police.  Blackpool police told Grace that her assailants had been charged by Manchester police as they were wanted for crimes in Manchester and that Blackpool police would not be able to charge them until they had finished their sentence received for the crimes in Manchester.

Grace has heard nothing from Blackpool police since the time of the attack and can only assume that her attackers are in prison, but does not know. This uncertainty is very hard for Grace as she feels the incident will not be over until she knows what has happened to her attackers.

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 430,000 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.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill - New Clause 26, ‘Assault of Workers’ was moved by Jack Dromey MP and debated in the House of Commons on 15 October 2013 (Col 628).  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131015/debtext/131015-0002.htm

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill – Amendment 87, ‘Assault of Workers’ was moved by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock and debated in the House of Lord’s on 14 January 2014 (Col 165).  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/140114-0002.htm

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill - New Clause 11, ‘Assault on workers selling alcohol’ was moved by Dan Jarvis MP and debated in Committee on 27 March 2014 (Col 502). http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmpublic/criminaljustice/140327/pm/140327s01.htm

For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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