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Government offers little more than warm words on abuse of shopworkers - Usdaw disappointed by further delay in tackling the issue

Date: 05 November 2019 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is disappointed by the Government’s response to today’s Westminster Hall debate on prevention of retail crime, secured by David Hanson MP (Labour, Delyn), which took place at 9.30am.
Usdaw responded in June this year to the Government’s ‘call for evidence’ by telling the Home Office that 80% of shopworkers believe violence and abuse are getting worse and nearly two-thirds have been victims of a physical or verbal attack. The union’s survey of 3,272 retail workers across England and Wales revealed:
  • 62% have been the victim of verbal or physical abuse.
  • 80% believe that abuse and violence have increased in recent years.
  • Almost a quarter describe threats of physical violence, with over half of these involving threats with weapons – most commonly knives, syringes or bottles.
  • 15% describe actual physical violence, varying from workers being pushed, spat upon, punched or kicked or attacked with weapons.
Usdaw’s full response is available at: www.usdaw.org.uk/UsdawEvidence

Usdaw’s call for Government action has been backed by retailers and their representative organisations. A joint letter to the Home Secretary and other Ministers recommends:
  • Tougher sentences for those who attack shopworkers.
  • Change to the out of court disposals system (e.g. fixed penalty notices) which is failing to have an impact on reoffending.
  • A full review into the response of police forces to incidents of violence in the retail.
The full letter can be viewed at: www.usdaw.org.uk/RetailViolenceLetter

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We have consistently demonstrated the full extent of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. Five months ago we and the retail employers responded to the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ and with one voice when we jointly called for action to tackle this growing problem. So we are disappointed to hear from the Minister today that the Government is still analysing the evidence received, has not yet published their response and is still considering next steps.

“This continued delay is extremely concerning for our members; Usdaw has been calling for action for many years. Even in the time since the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ closed, the Association of Convenience Stores has revealed that there has been an estimated 200,000 assaults and threats against retail and wholesale staff.

“Our message is clear; abuse is not a part of the job. We continue to call for stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers and the introduction of a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, courts and most importantly criminals.

“We were also disappointed that the Minister trotted out the familiar line that existing criminal offences already exist that could apply when shopworkers are assaulted, threatened or harassed. We are obviously aware of that, however our members’ experience is that the law is failing vulnerable workers. Many incidents are not even reported to the police. When they are the police response is often unsatisfactory because of their resource problems. Cases which do progress to trial often result in sentences which many victims consider derisory.

“We need decisive action to tackle this growing problem and we will be looking for the new Government that emerges after the general election to deliver for our members and all shopworkers. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”

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 410,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

Usdaw survey of violence and abuse against shop staff full report: www.usdaw.org.uk/2018FFFReport

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

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