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Attacks on shopworkers and shoplifting are up while police numbers have fallen - Usdaw calls for more police funding

Date: 13 November 2018 This is Respect for Shopworkers Week and retail trade union Usdaw has called on the Government to increase funding and resources for the police to help them tackle a rising tide of attacks on shopworkers and theft from shops.
Usdaw’s annual respect week, 12 - 18 November, is when the union’s reps and members organise awareness events as part of the Freedom from Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent verbal abuse, threats and violent attacks at work.
 
Interim results of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Survey, released yesterday, show that during 2018 over 230 shopworkers were assaulted every day, which is an increase of more than 40% on 2016. Last month the Office for National Statistics reported a further increase in police recorded incidents of shoplifting continuing the trend of a 32% increase over the last decade.
 
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported a doubling of violence against shop staff in their annual Retail Crime Survey. The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) reported a 65% increase thefts from convenience stores, also finding that challenging shop thieves is the most common trigger for violence and verbal abuse. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust last week found that two-thirds of UK retail workers have been exposed to violence or aggression in the workplace.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “The statistics from all sources are shocking and show that the need for urgent action is undeniable. While there are many factors behind retail crime, the effects of the severe cuts in police funding and the loss of over 20,000 police officers cannot be ignored. The clear message to Government is they need to do more. A properly funded police service is essential to halt the dramatic rise in retail crime and the impact it has on our members.
 
“Police resources are now so stretched we have some chief constables reporting that their officers can no longer attend theft from shops incidents and they are asking shopworkers to detain shoplifters, which would put our members in an unacceptably dangerous situation. Other forces are scaling back on investigations into theft from shops as they try to save money. Is this a green light to shop thieves, therefore leaving our members further exposed?
 
“Life on the frontline of retail can be tough for many shopworkers and there is still a lot to do to help protect them. We launched our Freedom From Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail staff about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with employers to promote respect and make shops safer for staff and customers alike.
 
“This week our members are out campaigning on high streets, in shopping centres and stores; talking to the public and asking them to ‘keep their cool and respect shopworkers’. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”
 
Voices from the frontline: As part of Usdaw’s survey of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, respondents have the opportunity to feed back their experiences, here are some examples:
  • “Black eye, as a result of detaining a shoplifter who was violent when stopped for the theft.”
  • “Shoplifter, told me to get out of the way or get stabbed with a syringe.”
  • “Shoplifter broke my wrist.”
  • “Punched in the face by shoplifter I was stopping from leaving the store with stolen goods.”
  • “Got a knife pulled on me by a shoplifter.”
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth 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.
 
Respect for Shopworkers Week 2018 takes place on 12-18 November. It is an annual event where shopworkers talk to the public about the problems of violence threats and abuse, asking customers to ‘keep their cool’. Part of the campaign will be encouraging shopworkers not to take abuse as part of the job and report incidents to their manager.
 
Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2018 survey, based on 3,561 responses, show that in 2018 so far: 59.65% were verbally abused, 36.93% were threatened. 11.36% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 230 assaults per day during 2018. The final results of the survey will be published in the new year.
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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