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Home Affairs Select Committee call for a new protection of shopworkers law welcomed by Usdaw, now the Government should listen

Date: 29 June 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed a report from a cross-party committee of MPs that highlights the need for a new criminal offence to protect shopworkers following a shocking upsurge in violence and abuse. The union is hoping that an amendment to the Government’s flagship crime bill will be debated and voted on next Monday 5 July.
The influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report follows a lengthy inquiry that heard evidence from across the retail industry including Usdaw. It identifies that violence and abuse towards shop workers is becoming endemic in British society and the policing response is failing to match the scale of the problem. The Committee is therefore calling for urgent improvements in reporting and responding to retail crime, including:
  • A new criminal offence to send a powerful and long overdue message that assaults on retail workers will not be tolerated.
  • The expansion of neighbourhood policing teams.
  • Proper recording of violence against shopworkers.
  • Police to provide local leadership in giving greater priority to retail crime.
  • An Employers Charter setting out how they should support and protect staff.
  • Safer Streets Fund resources to support measures on high streets and in retail settings. 
An amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was debated in committee last week, opposed by the Government and withdrawn without a vote. Usdaw expects a protection of workers amendment to be tabled for the report stage so that all MPs can vote on it. The amendment would seek to bring in measures similar to the new law passed by the Scottish Parliament that will come into force on 24 August.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We very much welcome this wide-ranging and comprehensive report by the select committee, which shows that MPs have listened to our members on the frontline and to voices from across the retail industry. With almost 90% of shopworkers suffering abuse, two-thirds threatened and nearly one in ten assaulted; retail workers, their friends, family and loved ones, are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job.
 
“So we are pleased that the committee has recommended new legislation to protect shopworkers. Usdaw is looking for a simple stand-alone offence for assaulting a retail worker to encourage prosecutions and provide the deterrent effect that our members are desperately looking for. Sending a clear message that assaulting or abusing someone working to serve the public is totally unacceptable.
 
“We also welcome the recommendations that support a better police response, greater joint working with employers, more resources to tackle retail crime and better reporting. Usdaw is ready to engage with the police, local authorities and employers to make a success of these measures. All of them can make a real difference to the experience of our members, but they must be backed up with the new legislation.
 
“When retail employers, leading retail bodies and the shopworkers’ trade union jointly call for legislation, 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. We are now looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the UK Government’s opposition.”
 
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
 
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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