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STUC Congress 2022: Usdaw calls for action on mental health at work and protection of shopworkers

Date: 22 April 2022 Retail trade union Usdaw has a delegation of members attending the annual Scottish Trades Unions Congress (STUC) conference in Aberdeen from 25 to 27 April. Usdaw is raising the link between poor work and mental health problems, along with the need to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse.
Tracy Gilbert – Usdaw Regional Secretary for Scotland says: “While anyone can experience a mental health problem, some people are more vulnerable because of their economic and social position along with the work they do. The workplace can be a cause of, and contributor to, mental distress. Low-paid, insecure work and poor working practices increase the risk of mental health problems.
“These factors, combined with the experience of workers throughout the pandemic, have widened mental health inequalities and led to a steep increase in individuals seeking support from their union, their employer and mental health services.
“Persistent low levels of awareness of disabled workers’ rights under the Equality Act remain. We are deeply concerned by the barriers workers continue to face accessing reasonable adjustments and support from employers, which are key to staying in and progressing at work.
“Strong collective bargaining rights are crucial to better terms and conditions and better support for mental health at work. Trade unions and union reps are vital in negotiating and promoting good policy, tackling stigma, enforcing rights at work and transforming workplace culture.”
Usdaw is calling for the STUC to emphasise the link between poor work and mental health. A key part of this should be a campaign for:
  • Strengthening Equality Act enforcement mechanisms around the right to reasonable adjustments.
  • Introduction of mandatory disability pay gap reporting for employers.
  • Repeal of anti-trade union laws and extension of collective bargaining rights.
  • A statutory mental health at work plan to include core standards around training, awareness raising and decent work. 
Tracy Gilbert continues: “Usdaw applauds the incredible efforts of our movement to help Daniel Johnson MSP deliver a protection of workers act. As a result of nearly 20 years’ of campaigning, retail workers across Scotland now have specific protection against abuse, threats and violence at work.
“Usdaw evidence has shown that violence and abuse towards retail workers has risen significantly since 2017. However, it is not just the frequency of attacks which is escalating, with a range of survey figures showing that perpetrators are increasingly using knives and other weapons in attacks against retail workers.
“Following the hard work and success in getting Daniel Johnson’s Act through the Scottish Parliament, it is now essential to ensure that the new offence is enforced. Only through adequate enforcement and awareness will the Act ensure that abuse is no longer part of the job for Scotland’s retail workforce. This enforcement will require a co-ordinated approach from local councils, the police, employers and the Scottish Government.”
Usdaw calls on the STUC to:
  • Call on all candidates in next week’s local elections to commit to urgently deliver plans to tackle retail crime in their local area.
  • Campaign to ensure that Police Scotland responds to reports of violence and abuse towards retail workers.
  • Work with employers to raise awareness of the new offence among retail workers and the shopping public.
  • Lobby the Scottish Government to review the effectiveness of the legislation and take further measures where necessary. 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 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.
Usdaw’s ‘It’s good to talk’ campaign provides the union’s workplace reps with advice and resources to support members experiencing a common mental health problem such as depression or anxiety. For more information: www.usdaw.org.uk/Help-Advice/Health-Wellbeing/Mental-Health
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear
Usdaw annual respect survey full results: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFsurvey2021
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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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers