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Three-quarters of retail staff say abuse has been worse during the pandemic - Usdaw launches Respect for Shopworkers Week

Date: 16 November 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw has today launched Respect for Shopworkers Week with shocking statistics from their annual survey. Interim results from over 2,000 retail staff show that so far this year:
  • 76% say abuse has been worse than normal during the Covid-19 pandemic,
  • 85% of shopworkers have experienced verbal abuse,
  • 57% were threatened by a customer,
  • 9% were assaulted.
The annual Respect for Shopworkers Week runs from 16-22 November 2020. During the week, Usdaw will be raising awareness of the year-round Freedom from Fear Campaign and promoting the parliamentary petition calling on the Government to legislate to protect shopworkers. The petition currently has over 70,000 signatures and can be signed at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328621

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Yet another Usdaw survey shows that some people have responded to this appalling pandemic by abusing shopworkers. At a time when we should all be working together to get through this national crisis, it is a disgrace that staff working to keep food on the shelves are being abused.

“Action to protect shopworkers is needed and that is why we have launched a petition, which now has over 70,000 signatures. We were deeply disappointed by the Government’s response to the petition, offering little more than sympathy, so we continue to campaign for the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a parliamentary debate.

“This is a hugely important issue for our members. Shopworkers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job. 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 frontline: Some of the comments from shopworkers responding to this year’s annual survey:
  • “Asked a customer to join the back of a queue, got verbal abuse. She then returned to the store with a knife and said she was going cut me up.”
  • “Physically pushed, shoved, trolley rammed during panic buying.”
  • “Trying to belittle and humiliate you. Undermining what you are saying about the rules.” 
  • “Being screamed at when telling customers we don’t have an item in stock.”
  • “I had members of the public cough on me as I was stacking shelves."
  • “People pulling your mask off for being a sheep.”
  • “My car was keyed by a customer who was barred from the shop.”
  • “Since the pandemic I've had abuse nearly every day, even coughed on twice.”
Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2020 survey, based on 2,317 responses, show that in 2020 so far: 85.49% were verbally abused, 56.87% were threatened. 16.27% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career. 8.59% had been assaulted this year. The final results of the survey will be published in the New Year.
Responses to the question - In your experience during the Coronavirus emergency are incidents of work related violence and abuse…much worse 39.63%, worse 36.41%, the same 17.24%, not as bad 4.42%, much fewer 2.3%.

Respect for Shopworkers Week 2020 takes place on 16-22 November. It is an annual event where shopworkers ask the public to ‘keep their cool’. Part of the campaign will be encouraging shopworkers not to take abuse as part of the job and report incidents to their manager. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear/Campaign-Materials

Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill promoted by Daniel Johnson MSP (Labour, Edinburgh Southern) in the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed stage one and will now to go for detailed scrutiny in committee. www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/107499.aspx

Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill promoted by Alex Norris MP (Labour/Co-op, Nottingham North) was timetabled for its second reading in the House of Commons, but the Government objected to it progressing and is now delayed until Friday 8 January. https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2725

Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear

For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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