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Tesco chief’s backing for a law change to help prevent violence and abuse against shopworkers is welcomed by Usdaw

Date: 03 September 2023 Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy calling for a change in the law to make abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence across the UK. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Murphy revealed the supermarket chain has offered body-worn cameras to members of staff who need them after seeing physical assaults rise by a third in a year.
He said Tesco has invested £44 million in four years on security measures including door access systems, protection screens and digital radios, as well as the cameras, but called for more to be done against offenders. “Money spent on making sure people are safe at work is always well spent,” he said. “But it should not have to be like this. Crime is a scourge on society and an insult to shoppers and retail workers.
“I want those who break the law in our stores brought to book,” he said. “After a long campaign by retailers and the union Usdaw, last year the Government made attacking shop workers an aggravating factor in convictions – meaning offenders should get longer sentences. Judges should make use of this power. But we need to go further, as in Scotland, and make abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence in itself.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We very much welcome this high-level support from the UK’s biggest retailer for a campaign aim that Usdaw has pursued for many years through our Freedom From Fear campaign.
“Our annual survey found that three-quarters of retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops was the trigger for nearly a third of these incidents last year and it is very worrying that the latest official statistics show that shoplifting increased by 24% last year. So the situation is getting worse and action is needed.
“We are working with employers like Tesco to ensure better protection for shopworkers. There is no doubt that body-worn cameras do have a deterrent effect and we are supportive of such measures aimed at reducing violence, threats and abuse at work. Staff wearing cameras need to be properly trained and the public must be fully aware they are in use, to act as a deterrent to would-be attackers.
“Faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse much more needs to be done. There must be better coordination to ensure that government, retail employers, police and the courts work together to help protect shopworkers, giving them the respect they deserve.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 350,000 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
Crime in England and Wales: Police Force Area data tables: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/policeforceareadatatables
Final results of the Usdaw 2022 survey, based on 7,752 responses, show that (last year’s results in brackets): 74.26% (89%) were verbally abused, 49.25% (63%) were threatened. 7.92% (12%) had been assaulted. 40.88% said violence, threats and abuse caused them anxiety at work and 29.97% are now considering changing job. Top triggers for abuse: 34% shoplifting and armed robbery, along with 16% age-restricted sales. The full report can be found at: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2022
Comparison 2019 2020 2021 2022
Abuse 68% 88% 89% 74%
Threats 43% 61% 63% 49%
Violence 5% 9% 12% 8%
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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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers