South East shopworkers speak out about abuse

News Posted 25/08/21
Retail trade union Usdaw has launched a ‘Freedom from Fear’ summer campaign week from 22-29 August, following shocking statistics from its annual survey detailing the violence, threats and abuse UK shopworkers suffer.

Preliminary results from nearly 2,000 retail staff across the UK show that in the last twelve months:

  • 92% have experienced verbal abuse

  • 70% were threatened by a customer

  • 14% were assaulted

  • One in five victims have never reported an incident to their employer, including 5% who had been assaulted

These are some of the comments South East shopworkers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:

  • “I have been told I am a very bad or stupid person when upholding store policy over age restricted goods.”

  • “Threatened with a knife.”

  • “Always having to deal with foul language and even being shoved out the way if they are stealing products.”

  • “It varies from customers venting at you, to blaming you, to shouting and swearing at you. This is mostly about things that we have no control over.”

  • “Was threatened with a punch in the face by male customer.”

  • “Money thrown at myself.  Drinks and other purchases flung down or at me or in the shop.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from South East shopworkers, who deserve far more respect than they receive.

“Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers and demonstrate the need for a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law.

He continued: “A new protection of shopworkers law has come into force in Scotland, but we are deeply disappointed that the UK government has continued to resist a similar measure in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities, and that role must be valued and respected. They deserve the protection of the law.

“This is a hugely important issue for our members. They are deeply concerned that the current high levels of abuse will become the norm, unless the government takes urgent and meaningful action.

“Shopworkers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough. The government has promised to bring forward an amendment to their flagship policing bill in the House of Lords and we urge them to keep their word.”

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