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Retail industry unites to call on the Government to avoid a “life sentence” of violence and abuse for shopworkers

Date: 12 May 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw is part of a coalition, which includes more than 30 major retail businesses, that is today urging MPs to avoid shackling over three million shopworkers to a “life sentence” of violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour by encouraging them to back an amendment to a flagship Government crime bill which would offer frontline workers greater protection.
The call for stiffer penalties for those committing assaults and attacks on shopworkers comes as a new report: Breaking the Cycle: Gaining the views of criminal justice practitioners and retail offenders on effective sentencing is launched. The research, written by Dr Emmeline Taylor and funded through the Co-op’s Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign, offers a response to the White Paper “A Smarter Approach to Sentencing and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill”, and provides clear opportunities to encourage Government to legislate to protect and support shopworkers.
 
Usdaw, retailers, and trade and industry bodies are standing together, calling on the Prime Minister to say that legislation is needed to protect the three million people that work in the retail sector. However, Government is so far rejecting the calls stating that ‘it remains unpersuaded of the need for a specific offence.’ As previous legislation to protect shopworkers in England and Wales failed at the end of the last Parliamentary session, the Government is being urged to change its mind and bring forward an amendment, or new clause, to its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill, which would deliver greater protection for all frontline shopworkers.
 
Dr Emmeline Taylor, author of the report, said: “No one can deny that criminal justice is in need of reform – when nearly two thirds of offenders released from short custodial sentences reoffend within a year it is clear that the system isn’t working. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill provides an opportunity to enact legislation that will better serve victims, protect communities and rehabilitate offenders.
 
“The Bill introduces better protections for emergency workers. Given the alarming frequency and severity of assaults against shop workers, an amendment to the Bill to include them would signal that these crimes will be taken seriously. The legal leverage of the new Act could potentially improve the likelihood that offenders comply with treatment services and secure long-term change in their behaviour.”
 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We welcome another expert report from Dr Taylor, but deeply regret that her further intervention is necessary because of growing violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. Usdaw’s 2020 survey showed that 9 in 10 shopworkers had been abused last year and the situation had become much worse during the pandemic. So it is very disappointing that the Government continues to resist calls from across the retail industry for new legislation to protect shopworkers.
 
“When major retail businesses and the shopworkers’ trade union jointly call for legislation, it is time for the Government to listen. In Scotland MSPs voted through a new ground-breaking law to give shopworkers greater protection. We are now looking for MPs to support key workers across retail and help turn around the UK Government’s opposition. Abuse should never be just a part of the job, shopworkers deserve respect and the protection of the law.”
 
Jo Whitfield, Co-op Retail CEO, said: “Violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour towards shopworkers is unacceptable, and it is clear from our conversations that there is appetite across the political spectrum to bring forward new clauses to the Government’s Crime (PCSC) Bill, which would provide the protection that frontline shopworkers need and deserve. 

"Stiffer sentencing will send out a clear message that criminal behaviour in our communities will not be tolerated by society, and importantly lets shopworkers - who have gone to amazing lengths to feed and care for communities throughout the pandemic - know that they are being listened to and taken seriously. Assaults and abuse should not be part of the job, and by standing together, I am confident we can encourage the Government to change its mind and bring about greater protection for shopworkers in all our communities.”
 
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.
 
Retailers in the coalition with Usdaw: Co-op, ALDI, Association of Convenience Stores, ASDA, Bensons for Beds, Bira, Boots UK, British Retail Consortium, Central England Co-operative, Chelmsford Star Co-operative, Dixons Carphone, East of England Co-op, Greggs, Homebase UK and Ireland, Iceland & The Food Warehouse, John Lewis, Lakes and Dales Co-op, Lidl GB, Marks & Spencer, McColls Retail Group, Morrisons, Moto Hospitality, Nisa, Pets at Home, Post Office Limited, Primark, Radstock Co-operative, Southern Co-op, Tesco, The Midcounties Co-operative, Waitrose, WHSmith.
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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