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In the middle of a crisis, Tories again refuse to back a protection of shopworkers law – Usdaw dismayed by their ongoing opposition

Date: 06 December 2023 Retail trade union Usdaw has expressed dismay at the Government’s continued opposition to the introduction of a protection of a new shopworkers law, similar to existing Scottish legislation, which has backing from across the retail sector. Retail crime and assaults on shopworkers were debated yesterday both in the House of Commons and Westminster Hall.
The House of Commons debate was opened by the Shadow Policing Minister, Alex Norris MP (Labour, Nottingham North) said: “Levels of retail crime, alongside violence and abuse towards shopworkers, have increased substantially in recent years. We have a special duty to stand up for shop workers because everybody should be able to go to work without fearing violence and abuse. The continued lack of action is failing these people. Retailers, unions, representative bodies, staff and management are totally aligned on the need for action. Our community policing guarantee is by far the boldest commitment to keeping our town centres safe that has been made in recent memory.”
 
Opening the Westminster Hall debate, Liz Twist MP (Labour, Blaydon) said: “The Government has said that they consider the existing law sufficient to protect retail workers. That leads me to this question: which retail workers have the Government been asking? I say that because, having spoken to workers on the ground, it is clear to me that the protections already in place are insufficient. Incidents of violence and intimidation are still rising. We are talking about being spat or coughed at, being slapped, punched or kicked, or being attacked with weapons. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the seriousness of the situation and make this a crime in its own right. That is what the sector wants and what our retail workforce deserve.”
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We are grateful to the Labour MPs who secured these debates and all those who stood up for our members and spoke in favour our ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign. We are dismayed but not surprised by the Government’s response and the failure of any Tory MP to speak in support of a new law protecting shopworkers. In the face of a 25% increase in shoplifting and the consequent abuse of shopworkers, it makes you wonder how bad it has to get before the Conservative Party will take the necessary action.
 
“In contrast, Labour proposed ‘community policing guarantee’, which includes scrapping the £200 limit on crown court prosecutions for shoplifting, creating a new specific offence of violence against shop workers, rolling out town centre policing plans and putting 13,000 extra police and community support officers back in town centres to crack down on antisocial behaviour.
 
“It was deeply disappointing that there were no measures announced in the King’s Speech to tackle high levels of theft from shops and abuse of shopworkers. Labour has promised to plug the gap in the Government’s legislative programme by seeking to amend the Government’s Criminal Justice Bill to strengthen the law to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse. I hope Government ministers and Tory MPs will reflect on these debates, end their opposition, do the right thing and help our members secure the protection they deserve.”
 
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 www.usdaw.org.uk
 
Town Centre Safety – House of Commons debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2023-12-05/debates/883E0B06-DF62-446B-BB22-2F36C0F9D222/TownCentreSafety
 
Violence and Abuse towards the Retail Workforce- Westminster Hall debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2023-12-05/debates/958C88EB-0C2F-47A7-B7A9-F8CD9DA0BEA2/ViolenceAndAbuseTowardsTheRetailWorkforce#main-content
 
Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2023 survey, based on 3,082 responses, show that: 65.44% were verbally abused, 42.74% were threatened. 17.52% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career. 4.81% had been assaulted this year. Of those who were abused, threatened or assaulted, 59.71% said that shoplifting was the trigger and their assessment of the underlying issues was 64.07% related to a drug and/or alcohol addiction. The final results of the survey will be published in 2023.
 
Crime in England and Wales: Police Force Area data tables:
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/policeforceareadatatables
 
Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2021/6
 
Criminal Justice Bill 2023: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3511
 
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
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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