Preston MP vows to protect abused shopworkers under ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign

Posted on - 17th November, 2021 - 1:28pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Campaigns, Christmas, Crime, People, Politics, Preston News
Sir Mark Hendrick

A Preston MP has backed a campaign that seeks to protect shopworkers from violence and abuse.

Sir Mark Hendrick has backed retail trade union Usdaw’s ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign after research revealed that nearly half of 3,500 surveyed shopworkers were not confident that reporting abuse would make a difference.

Today, Usdaw has launched shocking statistics from their annual survey as part of Respect for Shopworkers Week, running from 15 to 21 November.

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Interim results from nearly 3,500 retail staff show that in the last twelve months:

  • 89 per cent have experienced verbal abuse
  • 64 per cent were threatened by a customer
  • 11 per cent were assaulted
  • 46 per cent said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference.
  • 7 per cent of those who had been assaulted did not report the incident.

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Sir Mark, who has supported this campaign each year, said: “These figures are alarming and paint a picture that retail workers not only face high levels of abuse but are also very worried about reporting incidents.

“No worker should have to put with verbal abuse, physical threats or violence while trying to do their job. It has been a difficult enough period, as it is as we emerge and try to recover from the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Shopworkers, especially keyworkers, did an immense job of keeping things going, and they deserve to be treated with respect, especially with a busy Christmas shopping period coming up. I fully support this campaign and call on our
government to increase protection for retail workers.”

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Below is a list of comments from shopworkers responding to this year’s annual survey:

  • “Customer attempted to punch me upon asking for ID from his partner, who appeared under 25.”
  • “Mocking my intelligence and misogynistic comment about my physical abilities.”
  • “Pulled my top open and stuffed some paper down my chest.”
  • “A customer spat in my face, and in another incident, a customer threw a basket of stock at me.”
  • “Abuse over rules, Covid policy and face masks.”
  • “Been physically assaulted, spat at, verbally abused, punched, hand round throat.”
  • “Called a c**t because we don’t have enough turkeys.”
  • “Hit with trolleys, verbally abused, called names and pushed.”
  • “Was shouted and sworn at, threatened to be beaten up and set on fire.”

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During the annual campaign week, Usdaw, activists and officials are raising awareness of the year-round Freedom from Fear Campaign, talking to the public at street stalls and in shops to promote a message of ‘respect for shopworkers’.

Usdaw is campaigning for new protection of workers law, such as legislation that came into force in Scotland in August 2021, making it an offence to assault or behave in a threatening or abusive way to a retail worker.

The union said it continues to call on the government to extend those protections to shopworkers across the rest of the UK.

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Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis said: “It is shocking that 9 in 10 of our members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence.

“It is extremely worrying that over half are not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference. The new protection of workers law in Scotland is welcome, and we urge the UK Government to extend it to 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.”

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What are your thoughts on the campaign? Let us know in the comments below

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