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Congress 2020: Usdaw calls for better protection of shop workers

Date: 14 September 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw has today, at Congress 2020, highlighted the achievements of the trade union movement during the pandemic, deep concerns about increased abuse of workers and called for a change in the law to better protect shop workers.
A parliamentary petition that seeks to protect retail staff from violence, threats and abuse can be signed at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328621
During the opening debate of this year’s Trades Union Congress, themed on safety first – working people on the frontline of coronavirus, Dave McCrossen – Usdaw Deputy General Secretary said: “Safe working conditions have always been a fundamentally important issue for the trade union movement. If we did not know already, Coronavirus has clearly shown why health and safety in the workplace is so vitally important.
“Many Usdaw members – working in supermarkets and shops, making deliveries to people’s homes, driving lorries, working in food production – are key workers and have worked throughout this crisis. Workers in retail faced unprecedented levels of risk as they went to work to ensure everyone had access to food and the shelves of our supermarkets did not go empty.
“Across all sectors, trade unions worked long and hard negotiating with employers to minimise risks and make workplaces as safe as possible. The trade union movement has been tested to the absolute limits by this crisis, and indeed by this Government and we all stepped up and we met that challenge.
“The trade union movement has every reason to be proud of what we have achieved during the crisis. Risk assessments, social distancing, protective screens, face coverings, hand sanitisers, limiting numbers in stores, full pay for many who were unable to work, pay bonuses for those on the frontline. These are just some of the measures that we fought for - and won - in the supermarkets, shops and distribution centres.
“Sadly, we were shocked to see Covid-safe measures, that were introduced to keep staff and shoppers safe, becoming flashpoints for abuse from some customers. The vast majority of customers recognised and fully supported the efforts being made by staff in shops, but even at the height of the pandemic, a significant minority of customers were abusing and threatening shopworkers.
“Usdaw’s research shows that thousands of retail workers faced abuse. Of even greater concern, we found that verbal abuse of shopworkers doubled during the crisis and out of 5,000 retail workers surveyed, 200 had been physically assaulted.
“Key workers on the frontline, encouraging people to follow basic safety measures deserve better. That’s why Usdaw has launched a petition calling on the Government to make it a specific offence to abuse, threaten or assault a shopworker. So far, over 60,000 people have signed the online petition. At 100,000 signatures, the Government have to formally consider it for debate in Parliament.
“So I urge everyone to sign it today, and to encourage your family and friends to do so too. During this crisis, shopworkers were finally recognised as key workers. Now the time has come for all of our key workers to get the protections they deserve.”
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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