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Government leaves the door open for a protection of shopworkers law – Usdaw urges Peers to make it happen

Date: 15 September 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw welcomes interventions from Labour frontbenchers urging the Government to follow Scotland’s lead and introduce a protection of shopworkers law. Responding to the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill second reading debate last night, the Government Minister indicated an amendment is still under consideration.
In the debate’s opening remarks Lord Falconer (Labour) said: “Shopworkers have been rightly praised for keeping the country and the economy going during the pandemic. We need a bit more than warm words. The Minister in the <House of Commons> said that they would consider it. Can the Minister in <the House of Lords> tell us where they have got to in relation to that?”
 
In the closing comments Lord Rosser (Labour) said: “On retail workers, it is important to recognise that assaults are not just a problem born of the pandemic. Although the pandemic heightened it, this has been a rising problem faced by shopworkers for many years. Amendments on this issue had cross-party backbench support in the Commons, and the Government said they would consider the matter and bring forward an amendment in the Lords ‘if appropriate’.
 
“In a response to the Home Affairs Select Committee, published last week, the Government said they were not complacent on this issue, and repeated their plan to consider it as part of this Bill. They also said that they would ‘take into account’ the text of the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act, which has recently come into force in Scotland. I pay tribute to the work of Daniel Johnson MSP as the leading Member involved. The Bill was passed unanimously, including with support from the Minister’s own party.
 
“What does the Government ‘considering’ the issue actually mean? What meetings have Ministers held over the summer with business, trade unions and groups, including the British Retail Consortium, on this matter? When is the consideration going to be completed and a conclusion reached? I trust that the Minister will be able to address these points in the Government’s response to this debate.”
 
Responding to the debate Baroness Williams (Home Office Minister) said: “I share concerns about the unacceptable increase, during the pandemic, of assaults on shopworkers. There is already a wide range of offences which criminalise disorderly and violent behaviour that would apply in cases of violence towards people whose work brings them into contact with members of the public. These offences cover the full spectrum of unacceptable behaviour, from using abusive language to the most serious and violent offences. None the less, the Government has agreed to actively consider whether legislative change is necessary and to bring forward any proposal if it is.”
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “With recent survey results showing that over 90% of retail workers have been abused in the last 12 months and 1 in 7 have been physically assaulted, the current provisions to protect shop staff are clearly not working. We are grateful to the Labour frontbench for continuing to pursue the protection of shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse. We also welcome the cross-party support this attracted in the House Lords debate last night.
 
“We again urge the Government to bring forward a substantial measure that delivers much needed protections. When retail employers, leading retail bodies, the Home Affairs Select Committee 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, which came into force last month. We are now looking for the House of Lords to similarly support key workers across the retail sector, who regularly suffer violence and abuse.”
 
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.
 
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – second reading: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-09-14/debates/4D726E25-3924-4BB5-B399-4C839D773815/PoliceCrimeSentencingAndCourtsBill
 
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.
 
Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2021/6
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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