Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis has called for people to ‘keep their cool’ on Black Friday (26 November 2021) as millions of shoppers are set to take advantage of what is now described as the biggest discounting day of the retail year.

Black Friday events in 2013 and 2014 saw a two-thirds increase in incidents of verbal abuse, threats and violence against retail staff. Usdaw has since successfully worked with employers to minimise abuse in recent years, but the union continues to be wary in light of recent increases in incidents.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Our members have had real concerns about Black Friday. After two years of unprecedented scenes of mayhem in some stores, as bargain hunting turned into frenzy, we discussed safety issues with retailers. They responded positively by organising their events to maximise safety and security for staff and customers alike. Consequently recent years have been quieter and more respectful, but we continue to monitor the situation.

“We are aware that Christmas shopping has started earlier this year because of customer fears of stock shortages, so that could drive higher footfall in stores this Black Friday. We know that when stores are busy and customers are stressed, things can boil over and shoppers can become abusive or worse.

“Incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers are already worryingly high. Interim figures from this year’s Usdaw survey reveal that nine in ten of our members working in retail suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence.

“Usdaw and retail employers are jointly calling on the Government for additional legal protections to prevent attacks on shopworkers and ensure that violent criminals are prosecuted. Unfortunately, despite cross-party support from MPs and Peers, the Government is yet to back protection of shopworkers legislation across the UK, similar to the new Scottish law that came into force in August.

“My Black Friday message to shoppers is clear. Enjoy your bargain hunting, keep your cool and respect shopworkers.”

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