shop worker in a store
#Respect16 campaign: Usdaw demand an end to abuse of shopworkers
“I was attacked at work when I caught a customer stealing – they tried to strangle me.” This is the story of an Usdaw member in Northwich, and it’s not an isolated incident.
Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough. Violence, threats and abuse have become part of daily life of shop staff. Now Usdaw’s latest survey reveals the shocking statistics and stories of abuse.
Verbal abuse is a regular occurrence for shopworkers. One of our members in Tamworth said, “I regularly get called stupid, etc. by customers and told ‘no wonder you’re in a dead-end job’.” According to our survey, 44% of retail staff have been verbally abused.
Another Usdaw member in Northern Ireland told us “I had a knife pulled on me and was threatened after I refused to sell alcohol.” One in four shopworkers were threatened in the last 12 months.
A Birmingham shopworker reported being assaulted several times, “I have had my finger twisted, been scratched, spat on, sworn at and had racist comments made to me.” In fact, 8.4% of those we asked said they’ve been assaulted whilst doing their job.
These stories and many more are the reason for our Respect Shopworkers Campaign. #Respect16 is working with members and employers to make shops safer for staff and customers.
All too often criminals who assault staff are not even sent to court. Those who are can receive derisory sentences. In other cases, where the offender isn’t even charged, victims are left feeling that no one cares. That can lead to staff not reporting incidents and our strong message is ‘report it, to sort it’.
There needs to be action to help protect staff. It is time for the Government to act by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. We need a simple stand-alone offence, one that is understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and criminals. On four occasions since 2010, Parliament has a chance to change the law to better protect shopworkers, but the government benches have blocked it every time. That needs to change.
So this week Usdaw members will be out campaigning on our high streets, in shopping centres and stores. We’re talking to the public and asking them to ‘keep their cool and respect shopworkers’, especially over the busy Christmas shopping period. Please help our members out by spreading the word about the campaign, and tweeting @UsdawUnion with the hashtag #Respect16 if you see one of our stands at your local shop.
Nobody should face abuse and violence just for doing their job, and so long as it happens, Usdaw will be there to defend our members and to demand respect for shopworkers.