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Too many shopworkers are assaulted, they need the protection of the law - Usdaw will tell a Scottish Parliament Committee tomorrow

Date: 02 March 2020 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw will tomorrow give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee in support of the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill, which is being promoted by Daniel Johnson MSP (Labour, Edinburgh Southern).
The Committee will meet at 9.45am, on Tuesday 3 March 2020, in the Scottish Parliament’s David Livingstone Room (CR6). As well as taking evidence from Usdaw, the committee will also hear from: Law Society of Scotland; Police Scotland; Scottish Grocers' Federation; Scottish Retail Consortium; The Scottish Beer and Pub Association; Co-operative Group, and GMB.

Usdaw’s 2019 Freedom From Fear survey of over 1,000 Scottish retail workers shows that:
  • More than 6 in 10 Scottish retail workers experienced verbal abuse.
  • 32% were threatened by a customer.
  • 2.3% were assaulted, which amounts to more than 15* assaults every day across all of Scotland’s shopworkers.
Stewart Forrest – Usdaw Scottish Divisional Officer says: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers is totally unacceptable and we welcome the opportunity to give evidence in support of Daniel Johnson’s Bill. The statistics are shocking, showing that on average a Scottish shopworker can end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault more than once every three weeks. Our message is clear, abuse is not a part of the job.

“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.

“There needs to be a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, the judiciary and most importantly criminals. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”

Voices from the Scottish 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 from Scotland:
Alcohol: Aberdeen - “Customer under influence refused alcohol and became abusive and threatened staff.” Bellshill - “Because Scottish licencing laws are not clear to customers, I receive abuse on a regular occurrence.” Irvine - “Daily abuse from customers under the influence of drugs and alcohol”. Glasgow – “Couldn't sell alcohol before 10 am got an earful and told I'd ruined her life.” Aberdeenshire - “Refused customer alcohol as they were drunk they tried to grab my hair and grabbed hold of my shirt.”
Age-restricted sales: Broxburn - “Customers very aggressive when refused sale of age restricted products, particularly alcohol. They think it’s ok to shout and swear at you using language that is disgusting and personal insults.” Fife - “ID'd someone who looked about 19, called a 'ginger c**t'.” Fraserburgh - “Refused customer cigarettes and they started shouting and swearing”. Stranraer - “I was sworn at when I refused sale of a restricted item without ID”.
Throwing goods: Inverurie - “Customer threw items of their shopping at me as they were unhappy about the price.” Aberdeen - “I asked some youths to leave the store and they started throwing things at me.” Dalkeith - “One time a customer threw a computer at the manager.” Stenhousemuir - “His scotch pie, was not hot, he threw it back at me, and it hit my face.”
Sexual harassment: Fife - “Customer talking to members of staff inappropriately forcing members to be feel uncomfortable.” Moray coast - “Usually more sexual harassment that makes me feel extremely threatened and unsafe” Glasgow - “Got flashed by a customer, have had customers grab me and comment on my breasts.”
Shoplifters: Fife - “Shoplifter tried to head-butt me”. Braehead - “Chasing shoplifters - threatened with knife and syringes.” Glasgow - “Shoplifter tried to headbutt and kick me whilst he was being detained. Threatened to find my family using social media and slash their faces.”
Belittling: Wick - “Asked if I was stupid, spoken to like a child.” Dumfries - “I was asked if I was a normal person or not.” Dunfermline - “A customer once told me he wished I’d go away and kill myself for trying to do my job helping him.” Glasgow - “I have been called a fat cow and a jobs worth from shoplifters”.
Assault: Dingwall - “One customer elbowed me on purpose when I went past.” Greenock - “Was attacked and a fag stubbed out on my face.” Stirling - “Shoplifter pushed me over dislocating shoulder”.
Verbal abuse: Dundee - “I have had customers shout at me if something doesn’t go right and called many names, such as b***h and c**t.” Inverness - “A Woman was very upset about our lack of 10p bags and got verbally abusive.” Kilmarnock - “People being rude and bad mannered if they have to wait more than a minute in a queue.”
After work: Edinburgh - “I have been stopped in the street going home and verbally abused by a family member of a shoplifter that I had caught previously that day. I feel very uncomfortable being put in that situation as these people know where I live and are known to be violent!” Irvine - “Got threatened to be done away with because I closing the store!” Glasgow - “Threat to be stabbed, have car smashed up, to be met when finished work, called names, spat at. The list goes on”.
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 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.
Scottish results of Usdaw’s 2019 survey, based on 1,027 responses, show that last year: 60.4% were verbally abused, 32.2% were threatened, 8% of shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 2.3% assaulted last year. * When extrapolated over circa 240,000 retail workers, this amounts to over 15 assaults per day. Usdaw believes this is an underestimation because the survey analysis assumes each respondent was only assaulted once last year and it was conducted in mainly larger trade union organised stores, which tend to be safer than smaller non-unionised workplaces.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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