Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis has today (19 August) launched a House of Commons petition calling on the Government to legislate to protect shopworkers.
The trade union said the petition has been launched in response to “continued growing assaults, threats and abuse against shopworkers and the doubling of such incidents during the coronavirus emergency”.
A recent Usdaw survey found that on average UK shopworkers were verbally abused, threatened or assaulted every fortnight in 2019, but that average doubled to every week during the Coronavirus emergency.
Commenting on the need for the petition Lillis said the union was “appalled” that violence, threats and abuse have doubled during the pandemic and that it is a “national disgrace” that people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted.
He said: “Further action is required and that is why we have launched this petition today. Our message is clear, abuse is not part of the job. Life on the frontline of retail is normally pretty tough for many shopworkers and has become much worse during the coronavirus emergency.
“Shopworkers are on the frontline of feeding the country, providing an essential service in very difficult circumstances, working long hours in busy stores, facing abuse from customers and of course concerned they may become infected with Covid-19.”
He added: “In light of the unacceptable increase in abuse of shopworkers, there needs to be urgent action to help protect staff. I urge the Government not to dismiss my petition, but listen to the voices of shopworkers and legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. They have talked about zero-tolerance, but that means very little if it is not backed up by strong actions.
“The measures the Government have agreed are worth trying and we hope that they can make a real difference. However they would be much more likely to succeed if backed up with new legislation; a simple standalone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.”