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Usdaw and retailers call for an inquiry into the growing problem of violence and abuse against shop workers

Date: 01 October 2020 A retail industry coalition, including Usdaw, has today jointly written to Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, calling for an inquiry into violence and abuse against staff. The coalition also includes: British Retail Consortium (BRC), Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NRFN).
The joint letter follows the Government’s objection to a protection of workers bill, promoted by Alex Norris MP. The Government also offered little more than sympathy in response to a petition launched by Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis, with over 65,000 signatures, calling for legislation to protect shop workers. The petition can be signed at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328621
The joint Usdaw, ACS, BRC, NRFN to Yvette Cooper reads:
“We are writing as a coalition representing the retail industry and the three million people employed in it to raise our concerns about the increasing problem of violence and abuse against shopworkers. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support for our campaign and for attending and speaking at the joint Parliamentary Reception we held in March 2020.
“Assaults and abuse against retail workers was at an all-time high before coronavirus and has worsened over recent months as retail staff are on the front line, implementing new safety measures. The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) 2020 Crime Survey showed that every day, over 400 retail workers faced a torrent of violence and abuse in the workplace. Additionally, ACS’s 2020 Crime Report found that there were over 50,000 violent incidents in local shops, and Usdaw’s work highlights that, on average, a shopworker is abused, threatened, or assaulted 21 times a year. This is despite record spending by retailers who invested £1.2 billion on crime prevention measures in the last year.
“These incidents are often the result of challenging shoplifters, enforcing age restricted sales and most recently, implementing social distancing measures. In some cases, our colleagues are threatened and attacked with weapons such as knives and syringes and since covid have even had people cough and spit at them. These incidents are not victimless crimes and have a serious impact, not only on the people running businesses and working in shops who experience physical injuries and psychological trauma, but also on the families they go home to and the communities they serve.
“Retail workers have been described by the Government as Hidden Heroes and have been praised for their hard work to keep the nation fed and supplied with goods needed. We were therefore disappointed to see the Home Office reject our call for a standalone offence for assaults against retail workers in their response to the Call for Evidence. Ultimately, a change in the law would provide shopworkers with better protections and would send a strong and clear message that the Government and criminal justice system is on their side and will not tolerate incidents of abuse or violence.
“We therefore write to you as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee to ask if the Committee would consider holding an inquiry which investigates this growing problem of violence and abuse against retail workers and the measures the Government should be taking to address it. The inquiry might also focus on the Government’s response to the Call for Evidence on violence and abuse toward shop staff, which we feel does not go far enough to keep our colleagues safe and protected.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary
James Lowman - Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores
Helen Dickinson - Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium
Stuart Reddish - National President, National Federation of Retail Newsagents
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.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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