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 show that during 2018: 6 in 10 shopworkers experienced verbal abuse, 37% were threatened by a customer, with over 230 assaulted every day. The number of incidents is in line with last year and remains higher than 2 years ago. The survey continues and full results will be released in the new year.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says:
“Violence, threats and abuse against workers are amongst the great scourges of our society. The statistics are shocking and show that urgent action is required. Many UK workers are on the frontline of dealing with the public and that can mean they end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault.
“Usdaw’s survey findings are in line with other statistics recently released, with the level of abuse and violence remaining far too high. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust last week found that two-thirds of UK retail workers have been exposed to violence or aggression in the workplace. Earlier in the year the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported a doubling of violence against retail staff as part of their annual retail crime survey.
“While there are many factors behind retail crime, severe cuts in police funding and the loss of over 20,000 police officers does not help. Police resources are so stretched we now 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.
“Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty 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.
“So there needs to be action to help protect staff. It is time for the Government to act by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals. The Government could act immediately by accepting a protection of shopworkers amendment to their Offensive Weapons Bill, which will make it a specific offence to obstruct a shopworker who is preventing the illegal sale of knives and corrosive substances.
“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.”
“Customer throwing card machines.” - “Didn't have enough money, threw product at me and stormed off.” - “Customer chucked a chicken bake at me.”
“Customer not being happy about Christmas congestion and took it out on me.” - “A frozen gammon was thrown at me by an irate customer at Xmas.” - “On the customer service desk I was told to ‘cheer up it’s nearly Christmas, you miserable bitch’ in a nasty tone.”
“Held up 3 times. Hammer-blade-scissors.” - “Racist and sexist comments and drunks threatening to beat people up with a bat!” - “Threatened with a needle, threatened to be punched in the face and pushed into a wall.”
Age Restricted Sales:
“Always to do with Think 25. It had calmed down but now that the energy drinks are Think 25, people are getting annoyed with being asked for ID” – “I was called a cow because I refused to serve alcohol to a customer who had no ID.” – “I refused to sell a tin of spray glue to a man I believed to be under 18 years old so he threw it at me.”
“Called names and swore at by a customer whom I’d just refused a sale because they were intoxicated. Pointing her finger in my face and making threats.” - “Didn't have enough money, wanted alcohol. I refused sale and the customer was abusive.” – “Ranting when refused alcohol sale when drunk and after 10pm.”
“I have had a customer ram a trolley into my leg as he said I was in the way!” - “Punched in the face by shoplifter I was stopping from leaving the store with stolen goods.” – “Aggressive customers thinking it's okay to shout, scream and use inappropriate hitting of arms etc.”
“Customer came to checkout and was in a rush. Told me to f***ing hurry up.” - “Customers can be really rude, whistling for attention or clicking fingers” – “Customer told me to stick receipt up my arse. I just ignored him.”
“A guy threatened to smash my face in with a bottle of alcohol.” - “Angry customers ranting. One man threatened to wait outside for me.” - “I had lasses waiting for me outside the shop and lads following me to my house”.
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