Retail trade union Usdaw has responded to a parliamentary inquiry into violence and abuse towards retail staff with a call for legislation to protect retail staff. Today the union released new statistics showing that nearly 9 in 10 shopworkers were abused last year. Last night the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a ground-breaking new law to protect shopworkers.

Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that:

  1. 88% experienced verbal abuse,
  2. 61% were threatened by a customer,
  3. 9% were assaulted.

The influential Home Affairs Select Committee launched their inquiry the day after Usdaw secured over 100,000 signatures on a ‘protect shopworkers’ petition that should now trigger a parliamentary debate. Launched by shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis, the petition is backed by 23 major retailers and the industry’s leading trade bodies, with research by the Co-op showing its aims have public support as well.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: 
“Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers and demonstrate the need for a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to make the case to the select committee.

“It has been a terrible year for our members, with almost 90% of shopworkers suffering abuse, two-thirds threatened and nearly one in ten assaulted. Retail workers, their friends, family and loved ones, are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job.

“We were deeply disappointed by the UK Government’s initial response to our petition, offering little more than sympathy and their objection to the Alex Norris protection of shopworkers bill in the House of Commons. Last night we had a great result for our members in the Scotland, as MSPs voted through ground-breaking legislation to give shopworkers the protection of the law that they deserve. So we are now looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the UK Government’s opposition.

Voices from the frontline:Some of the comments from shopworkers responding to last year’s annual survey:

  1. “Asked a customer to join the back of a queue, got verbal abuse. She then returned to the store with a knife and said she was going cut me up.”
  2. “Physically pushed, shoved, trolley rammed during panic buying.”
  3. “Trying to belittle and humiliate you. Undermining what you are saying about the rules.”
  4. “Being screamed at when telling customers we don’t have an item in stock.”
  5. “I had members of the public cough on me as I was stacking shelves.”
  6. “People pulling your mask off for being a sheep.”
  7. “My car was keyed by a customer who was barred from the shop.”
  8. “Since the pandemic I’ve had abuse nearly every day, even coughed on twice.”

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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