Retail trade union Usdaw has been talking to members working in petrol stations about their experiences of this week’s fuel crisis. Based on their feedback, nearly three-quarters of petrol forecourt workers have been on the wrong end of abuse from customers and stress levels have been very high.

Voices from the forecourt frontline, these are some of the comments we received from members who completed the survey:

  1. “Customers have made it extremely dangerous with their driving and the way me and my colleagues have had to put up with being spoken to is disgraceful!!”
  2. “People annoyed at waiting and no signs to say but we don’t have these signs at our finger tips just paper and pens.”
  3. “The level of abuse myself and my colleagues have faced has been considerable. We’ve even been accused of keeping fuel for ourselves which is completely untrue! It’s been very stressful.”
  4. “I’ve been sworn at countless times by members of the public. I saw my manager politely inform a waiting driver we had no diesel, the driver then reversed and deliberately drove his car aggressively, wing mirror clipping my manager as car drove past him. Horrible situation and really uncalled for.”
  5. “When we try and shut off the forecourt entrance with traffic cones, people drive their vehicles at us. They shout at us and say we are lying.”
  6. “Drivers swear at us calling us jobsworths for trying to manage the large queue. Some very aggressive. Police nowhere to be seen. This petrol crisis has added yet another trigger to workplace violence for retail workers.”
  7. “It was very stressful situation, the amount of cars, vans and lorries trying to get fuel, I had to direct to pumps because they were blocking the entrance and we were not able to replenish shelves. I could honestly say I’ve never experienced such stress at my job.”

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This is a crisis that was made in Downing Street, but has impacted motorists and petrol station staff across the country. Our members are telling us that the vast majority of customers have been great, but there is a significant minority who take out their frustrations on the staff who are there to serve them. We saw similar disturbing scenes during the first lockdown panic buying period, when abuse against shopworkers doubled.

“Clearly this is an already stressful situation for staff, so it is deeply disturbing to hear the experiences of our members on the forecourt frontline. Abuse should never be just a part of the job and there is no excuse for customers to take their frustrations out on staff. We urge the public to keep their cool and respect the staff.

“The empty shelves and empty petrol pumps that we’ve seen this week are entirely the fault of the Government and their complete failure to get a grip on supply issues. Yet who takes the brunt of people’s frustrations? It’s not Boris Johnson. It’s over-stretched, underpaid, exhausted workers who are doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances. The Government must take responsibility for this crisis and urgently find a resolution.”

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