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Unions call on government to act over shop worker assaults

Crime / Tue 30th Apr 2019 pm30 02:23pm

AN East of England shopworker is abused, threatened or assaulted over 19 times a year on average – Usdaw calls on the Government to act

Shopworker’s trade union Usdaw has today released shocking statistics from their annual survey which shows that on average East of England shopworkers were verbally abused, threatened or assaulted 19 times last year, which is more than once every three weeks.

Whilst not all shopworkers suffer to this extent, some experience much higher levels of abuse, threats and violence. Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Survey shows that during 2018:
62% of East of England shopworkers experienced verbal abuse,

37% were threatened by a customer with 28 assaulted every day.

The Government has opened a ‘call for evidence’ on this growing issue, following pressure from Usdaw, employers like the Co-op and retailers’ representative organisations like the Association of Convenience Stores, British Retail Consortium and National Federation of Retail Newsagents. The Government is seeking the views of organisations and individuals who wish to contribute to their understanding of the problem of violence and abuse toward shop staff in England and Wales.

This consultation closes at 11pm on 28 June 2019 and submissions can be made online at: www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/PVAUE/

Usdaw is running their own survey, which will feed into the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ and can be completed at: www.usdaw.org.uk/respectsurvey

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers are amongst the great scourges of our society. The statistics are shocking and show that urgent action is required. On average an East of England shopworker can end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault more than once every three weeks. Our message is clear, abuse is not a part of the job.

“Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many shopworkers and there is still a lot to do to help protect them. We launched our Freedom From Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail staff about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with employers to promote respect and make shops safer for staff and customers alike.

“So there needs to be action to help protect staff. We want the Government to provide stiffer penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.

“Usdaw welcomes the Government opening a ‘call for evidence’ and we encourage everyone concerned with this issue to make their voices heard by contributing to the Home Office online consultation or visiting the Usdaw website to complete our survey, which we will submit to the Government.

“Retail staff 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 East of England frontline: As part of Usdaw’s survey of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, respondents have the opportunity to feed back their experiences, here are some examples from the East of England:

Kings Lynn: “I refused to sell a tin of spray glue to a man I believed to be under 18 years old so he threw it at me”
Chelmsford: “Usually abuse from customers, when not enough staff in place, threatening behaviour usually from drunks and shoplifters.”
Spalding: “Customers throwing food back at us on the deli counter. Swearing at us, telling us we don’t know how to do our job.”
Harlow: “Customer asked to leave store because of behaviour. I was escorting him out, he carried on being abusive, threatened to assault me if he saw me outside and shoved me as we walked towards exit. The police were called.”
Hatfield: “Customers not being polite and having a rant for missing or substituted items.”
Cambridge: “Abuse mainly happens when refusing to serve intoxicated customers alcohol or stealing.”
Ipswich: “Experienced a very rude customer when deliveries were short after snow last year, I was poked in the arm by a customer.”
Norwich: “Hairdryer thrown at me. Foul language.”
Colchester: “Assaulted by a drunk customer, myself and two others, he got two months for each assault totalling six months.”

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