Preliminary results from nearly 2,000 retail staff show that in the last twelve months:
South East voices from the frontline:
- 92% have experienced verbal abuse,
- 70% were threatened by a customer,
- 14% were assaulted.
- One in five victims have never reported an incident to their employer, including 5% who had been assaulted.
These are some of the comments South East shopworkers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:
“I refused to let a man into store due to him attempting to start a physical fight outside the store. This resulted in him squaring up into my face, inches apart.” – “Threat of violence because we did not have a certain product.”
“Money thrown at myself. Drinks and other purchases flung down or at me or in the shop.” - “I have been told I am a very bad or stupid person when upholding store policy over age restricted goods.”
“Verbal abuse and a threat of physical. Was threatened with a punch in the face by male customer.” – “Always having to deal with foul language and even being shoved out the way if they are stealing products.”
“Hit with a bottle by a shoplifter. Verbal abuse from people in a variety of situations.” – “I was assaulted during a robbery.” – “Mainly verbal abuse - the latest being called a scumbag.”
“I had a drunk shoplifter. As I stopped him and called the police he decided to bite me.”- “Threats to stab, come back and assault at a later date.” – “Customer hitting my van and throwing things at me.”
“It varies from customers venting at you, to blaming you, to shouting and swearing at you. This is mostly about things that we have no control over.” – “Threatened with a knife.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says:
“It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from South East shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers and demonstrate the need for a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law.
“It has been a terrible year for our members, with over 90% of shopworkers suffering abuse, more than two-thirds threatened and one in seven assaulted. We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job. At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a disgrace that staff working to keep food on the shelves and the shop safe for customers are being abused. Action to protect shop workers is needed.
“Today a new protection of shopworkers law comes into force in Scotland, but we are deeply disappointed that the UK Government has continued to resist a similar measure in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.
“This is a hugely important issue for our members. They are deeply concerned that the current high levels of abuse will become the norm, unless the Government takes urgent and meaningful action. Shopworkers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough. The Government has promised to bring forward an amendment to their flagship policing bill in the House of Lords and we urge them to keep their word.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 380,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
Preliminary results of the Usdaw’s 2021 survey
, based on 1,966 responses, show that in 2020 so far: 92.17% were verbally abused, 70.14% were threatened. 25.13% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career. 14.04% had been assaulted this year. The final results of the survey will be published in the New Year.
Usdaw summer campaign week, 22-29 August 2021:
During the week, Usdaw members, reps and activists will be raising awareness of the year-round Freedom from Fear Campaign, talking to the public at street stalls to promote a message of ‘respect for shopworkers’ and running campaigns in workplaces.
Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021:
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign
seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/FreedomFromFear
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion