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Labour backs a new protection of shopworkers law - Usdaw welcomes cross-party support and urges the Government to act

Date: 16 March 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed support from the Labour frontbench and across the House of Commons for a protection of shopworkers law. The union calls on the Government to include a provision in their Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to deliver much needed legislation to tackle growing abuse against shopworkers.
Labour’s frontbench has indicated they would support legal protection for shopworkers during the second reading debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and it attracted backbench support from across the House of Commons. The measure is also backed by leading retailers.
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “When retail CEOs, leading retail bodies and the shopworkers’ trade union jointly call for action, it is time for the Government to listen. So we are grateful to the Labour frontbench and backbench MPs raising this issue. Shopworkers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job.
 
“Our latest survey results lay bare 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 almost 90% of shopworkers suffering abuse, two-thirds threatened and nearly one in ten assaulted.
 
“The Government responded to our petition with little more than sympathy, objected to the Alex Norris ‘protection of shopworkers’ bill and defiantly deny the need for a change in the law. We continue to press the Government to support key workers across the retail sector and give them the protection they deserve.”
 
Nick Thomas-Symonds – Shadow Home Secretary (Labour, Torfaen said: “ “Research has shown that, during the pandemic alone, one in six of our shop workers have been abused on every shift, with 62% of UK shop workers experiencing verbal abuse and almost being threatened by a customer. There have been awful examples of attacks on other frontline workers, who have been spat at, punched, verbally abused and intimidated. Labour is calling for wider measures to protect the pandemic heroes, extending protections to shop workers as well as other frontline workers. There is widespread support for this, with the additional protection for shop workers supported by organisations such as the Federation of Independent Retailers and chief executive officers from a number of major retailers, including Aldi, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer, McColl’s, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and WHSmith.
 
“I would also like to mention the work of the Usdaw—the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—which has been passionate in campaigning for its members to receive these vital protections and has generated well over 100,000 signatories on petition. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to frontline workers for putting themselves at risk to keep our country running. We should repay some of that debt with decent legal protection as well as decent pay.”
Philip Davies MP (Conservative, Shipley) said: “I would like to see a specific offence for assaulting shop workers and other frontline workers. I used to work in retail, but it has been absolutely terrible to see the fact that during the pandemic, when shop workers have been going the extra mile to help us all, the number of assaults on them has doubled. We really need to do something about that, and I hope the Government will look favourably upon that proposal.”
 
Chris Bryant MP (Labour, Rhondda) said: “...we believe that emergency workers should not be subject to the terrible assaults that there have been over the years. But this does pose a problem, because a lot of women who work in shops are subjected to exactly the same problems and are often terrified to go into work. We had a terrible incident in the Co-op in Penygraig less than a year ago. Is there not a job of work that we need to do to make sure that all workers, but in particular women workers working in shops, are also protected?”
 
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.
 
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill second reading, Volume 691: debated on Monday 15 March 2021 https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-03-15/debates/3F59B66E-E7A1-484B-86E3-E78E71D0FE0F/PoliceCrimeSentencingAndCourtsBill
 
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.
The full report can be downloaded from: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2020
 
66 senior retail leaders wrote to the Prime Minister: https://brc.org.uk/media/676908/pmceo-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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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers