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Government police cuts have contributed to a weak response to retail crime - shopworkers are owed better protection says Usdaw

Date: 12 May 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw listened in disbelief as a Government Minister today accepted that police responses suffer because of a lack of resources and capacity; but couldn’t recognise the impact of losing of 20,000 police officers since 2010, due to Conservative austerity cuts.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP was today quizzed by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on violence, threats and abuse of shopworkers. Under questioning from the committee chair Yvette Cooper MP, the minister accepted the police lacked resources and said that recruiting more officers could make a difference. However, the Minister refused to admit that cutting significant police numbers had contributed to increased retail crime and abuse of shopworkers.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We have long said that reducing police numbers contributes to increased retail crime and abuse of shopworkers, we know that those Government cuts were a grave error judgement. The minister should have come clean today and acknowledged that is the reason the Government is now reinstating the 20,000 they cut over the last 10 years. It beggars belief that the minister says that more police will help, but would not accept that fewer police had hindered.
“Our latest survey lays bare the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers and demonstrates the need for a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law. It has been a terrible time for our members, 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.
“However the minister today again refused to accept the need for a protection of shopworkers law and that the cutting of 20,000 police has had a real impact on our high streets. He knows that too many cases go unreported simply because shopworkers don’t have the confidence that they will get a response from the police or that appropriate action will be taken in the courts. Creating a specific law to protect shopworkers will give them more confidence to report assaults and abuse.
“When retail CEOs, leading retail bodies and the shopworkers’ trade union jointly call for legislation, it is time for the Government 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.”
Campaign update: Late last year, the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the issue the day after Usdaw secured over 104,000 signatures on a ‘protect shopworkers’ petition. Usdaw gave evidence to that ongoing inquiry last week. In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a ground-breaking new law to protect shopworkers.
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.
House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/915/violence-and-abuse-towards-retail-workers/
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
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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