Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has welcomed an intervention in the Queen’s Speech debate by David Hanson MP (Labour, Delyn), who called on the Government to include measures to protect shopworkers in the proposed violent crime bill.

Speaking in the House of Commons, David Hanson MP said:
“I hope that when the violent crime Bill is brought before the House, there will be an opportunity for action to be taken on protecting shop staff by giving greater support to measures that will discourage violence against them and ensuring that they live free from fear about their daily workplace. It is very important that we do that. There is certainly cross-party support in this House, but also from the British Retail Consortium, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, Usdaw, the Co-operative Group, and small supermarkets and stores right across the board. Nobody apart from the current Government has resisted the potential for action on this. I hope that the consultation that the Government have undertaken will prove fruitful, but I want to see it come back before Christmas, as promised.”

Usdaw responded in June this year to the Government’s ‘call for evidence’ by telling the Home Office that 80% of shopworkers believe violence and abuse are getting worse and nearly two-thirds have been victims of a physical or verbal attack. The union’s survey of 3,272 retail workers across England and Wales revealed:

  • 62% have been the victim of verbal or physical abuse.
  • 80% believe that abuse and violence have increased in recent years.
  • Almost a quarter describe threats of physical violence, with over half of these involving threats with weapons – most commonly knives, syringes or bottles.
  • 15% describe actual physical violence, varying from workers being pushed, spat upon, punched or kicked or attacked with weapons.

Usdaw’s full response is available at: www.usdaw.org.uk/UsdawEvidence

Usdaw’s call for Government action has been backed by retailers and their representative organisations. A joint letter to the Home Secretary and other Ministers recommends:

  • Tougher sentences for those who attack shopworkers.
  • Change to the out of court disposals system (e.g. fixed penalty notices) which is failing to have an impact on reoffending.
  • A full review into the response of police forces to incidents of violence in the retail sector.

The full letter can be viewed at: www.usdaw.org.uk/RetailViolenceLetter

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“We have consistently demonstrated the full extent of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. Four months ago we and the retail employers responded to the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ and with one voice we pushed for action to tackle this growing problem.  The Government now has the opportunity to deliver the protections shopworkers need through their violent crime bill.

“Our message is clear, abuse is not a part of the job. We continue to call for stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers and the introduction of a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, courts and most importantly criminals.

“We are aware of the existing criminal offences that could apply when shopworkers are assaulted, threatened or harassed. However our members’ experience is that the law is failing vulnerable workers. Many incidents are not even reported to the police. When they are the police response is often unsatisfactory because of their resource problems. Cases which do progress to trial often result in sentences which the victims consider unsatisfactory.

“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 410,000 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.

Hansard: Debate on the Address – 14 October 2019 – Volume 666 – Column 51 – David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) http://bit.ly/32i9bRs

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