Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has welcomed Alex Norris MP (Labour and Co-operative Party, Nottingham North) raising the issue of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers during today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Alex Norris MP asked:
“Every day, an estimated 280 shopworkers will be victims of violence at work. At my local Co-op, a staff member was hit with a glass bottle. The Co-op is a good employer, and it wants this to stop, so it and other local retailers engaged with the Government’s call for evidence on violence towards shop staff. Seven and a half months later, they are awaiting a response. Prime Minister, will you commit today to publishing your response to the call for evidence, and will you meet me and a group of shopworkers who have experienced violence at work to hear about what happened to them?”

The Prime Minister responded:
“I certainly will make that undertaking to the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that he has raised this matter. We should not tolerate crimes of violence against shopworkers or indeed anybody else. I therefore find it paradoxical that the leader of his party is soft on the deportation of serious violent offenders.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“We are grateful to Alex Norris for raising violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers directly with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. We note the PM’s response, but we remain concerned by the lack of progress.

“The Government needs go much further much faster to address this ongoing, growing and pressing problem. Even in the time since the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ closed, our surveying suggests that around 100,000 shopworkers have been assaulted. We can’t go on like this, we need the Prime Minister to back up his words with actions.

“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 need decisive Government action to tackle this growing problem. 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 trade union with over 400,000 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.

In June last year, Usdaw responded to the Government’s ‘call for evidence’ showing that from 3,272 retail workers surveyed:

  • 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, kicked or attacked with weapons.

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

Usdaw’s call for Government action is 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.
  • Changes 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 retail.

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

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