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Protect Shopworkers from threat this Christmas

Usdaw survey reveals that nearly half of shopworkers are not confident that reporting abuse will make a difference

Preston MP, Sir Mark Hendrick backs retail trade union Usdaw’s ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign with renewed calls to protect shopworkers in Preston from violence and abuse.

Usdaw has today launched shocking statistics from their annual survey during the Respect for Shopworkers Week, which runs from 15-21 November. Interim results from nearly 3,500 retail staff show that in the last twelve months:

· 89% have experienced verbal abuse,

· 64% were threatened by a customer,

· 11% were assaulted.

· 46% said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference.

· 7% of those who had been assaulted did not report the incident.

During the annual campaign week Usdaw reps, activists and officials are raising awareness of the year-round Freedom from Fear Campaign, talking to the public at street stalls and in shops to promote a message of ‘respect for shopworkers’.

Sir Mark has supported this campaign each year and added: “These figures are alarming and paint a picture that retail workers not only face high levels of abuse but are also very worried about reporting incidents. No worker should have to put with verbal abuse, physical threats or violence while trying to do their job.

“It has been a difficult enough period as it is, as we emerge and try to recover from the worst effects of the Covid19 pandemic. Shopworkers, especially keyworkers did an immense job of keeping things going and they deserve to be treated with respect, especially with a busy Christmas shopping period coming up. I fully support this campaign and call on our Government to increase protection for retail workers.”

Usdaw is campaigning for a new protection of workers law, like the ground-breaking legislation that came into force in Scotland in August this year. The new Scottish law makes it an offence to assault or behave in a threatening or abusive way towards a retail worker. The union continues to call on the Government to extend those protections to shopworkers across the rest of the UK.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is shocking that 9 in 10 of our members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. So it is extremely worrying that over half are not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.

“The new protection of workers law in Scotland is welcome and we urge the UK Government to extend it to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.

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

"Customer attempted to punch me upon asking for ID from his partner who appeared under 25.”

“Mocking my intelligence and misogynistic comment about my physical abilities.”

“Pulled my top open and stuffed some paper down my chest.”

“A customer spat in my face, in another incident a customer threw a basket of stock at me.”

“Abuse over rules, Covid policy and face masks.”

“Been physically assaulted, spat at, verbally abused, punched, hand round throat.”

“Called a c**t because we don't have enough turkeys.”

“Hit with trolleys, verbally abused, called names and pushed.”

“Was shouted and sworn at, threatened to be beaten up and set on fire.”


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