Retail trade union Usdaw has renewed a call for legislation to protect retail staff after they today (10 March) released new statistics showing that 79% of shopworkers say abuse was worse last year.

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

  1. 88% experienced verbal abuse,
  2. 60% were threatened by a customer,
  3. 9% were assaulted.

The full report can be downloaded from: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2020

Late last year, the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the issue the day after Usdaw secured over 100,000 signatures on a ‘protect shopworkers’ petition. In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a ground-breaking new law to protect shopworkers. In February, 66 senior retail leaders wrote to the Prime Minister urging the UK Government to create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker.

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. 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. We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job.

“The UK Government has persistently opposed new legislation, offering little more than sympathy and objecting to the Alex Norris protection of shopworkers bill in the House of Commons. However, we had a great result for our members in Scotland, as MSPs voted through ground-breaking legislation to give shopworkers the protection they deserve. 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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