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Cross-party support for a new protection of shopworkers law welcomed by Usdaw, but it’s still not enough to convince the Government

Date: 07 June 2021 A petition launched by shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis, which attracted 104,000 signatures and is backed by major retailers, was debated this evening by MPs and received strong support from all sides of the House of Commons.
Despite overwhelming evidence from MPs, Home Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary Chris Philp declined to offer Government support for a change in the law to better protect shopworkers, as called for in the petition. Usdaw is now looking for the support of MPs for a Labour protection of shopworkers amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We thank Conservative backbencher Matt Vickers MP for introducing this debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee and for his ‘wholehearted’ support for the aims of the petition. Unfortunately, as Labour frontbencher Anna McMorrin MP correctly predicted, we only heard ‘warm words and hollow platitudes’ from the Minister when he responded to the debate.
“It is frustrating to hear the Government yet again claim that existing offences and Sentencing Council guidelines are enough, when it clearly isn’t, as the problem continues to grow. The fact that it took him five minutes to explain the existing sanctions on assailants says it all. Usdaw is looking for a simple stand-alone offence that is easily understood, not just by the legal profession, but by the criminals who are assaulting, threatening and terrifying shopworkers.
“Currently sentencing is complicated, involving three categories of harm and culpability, 19 aggravating factors and 11 factors reducing seriousness according to sentencing guidelines.  A separate offence for assaulting a retail worker would be easier to determine, encourage prosecutions and provide the deterrent effect that our members are desperately looking for. A clear message that violence against someone working to serve the public is not acceptable, which is exactly what Conservative, SNP and Labour MPs called for this evening.
“Retail employers, leading retail bodies and the shopworkers’ trade union are jointly calling for legislation, so it is time for the Government and MPs to listen. In Scotland, MSPs voted through a new ground-breaking law to give shopworkers the protection they deserve.
“So we again urge MPs to support the aims of our petition and persuade the Government to back legislation to protect shopworkers. They have the perfect opportunity through an amendment from Sarah Jones MP to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which we hope will be supported in the bill committee.
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.
Sarah Jones MP: NC45 amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “Offence of assaulting etc. retail worker” https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-02/0005/amend/police_rm_pbc_0524.pdf
Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that:
  • 88% experienced verbal abuse
  • 60% were threatened by a customer
  • 9% were assaulted
  • 79% of shopworkers say abuse was worse last year
The full report can be downloaded from: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2020
House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/915/violence-and-abuse-towards-retailworkers/
Co-op respect for shopworkers survey: https://www.co-operative.coop/media/news-releases/respect-for-shopworkers-one-in-five-customers-admit-to-showing-aggression
66 retail leaders wrote to the Prime Minister: https://brc.org.uk/media/676908/pm-ceo-crime-letter-feb-2021.pdf
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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