Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis is calling on the Government to provide absolute clarity on what is expected of the public during the Coronavirus emergency, as retail staff struggle with overcrowded shops, abusive customers and unprecedented demand across the food supply chain.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“We are deeply concerned about how the behaviour of a minority is causing problems in retail and we are questioning whether
Government advice is clear enough.

“This weekend we saw some scenes of mayhem as customers continue to panic buy when there is absolutely no need. If we are going to abide by social distancing then we must not have overcrowded supermarkets. A big concern for our members was to see essential
workers and vulnerable people unable to access ‘golden’ shopping hours because of crowds of people around the stores.

“It would be an appalling situation if police had to patrol supermarkets because shoppers refuse to calm down, taking them away from other vital duties, but if there is public disorder they have to respond.

“The Government’s lack of clarity on non-food retail is also causing great confusion. Some stores are shutting, but others are staying open. Like the pub situation last week, the public are not clear on what the Government expects. They must now make it clear to retailers over whether they should be open or not. We also need strict rules for the shopping public, the current advisory approach is plainly not working.

“Our members in the food supply chain are working extremely hard providing an essential service in very difficult circumstances. Usdaw is working with retail employers to improve the safety and welfare of staff in stores. We need the Government to deal with the current situation, which in some places is chaotic and out of control.”

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.

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