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Violence and abuse towards shop workers ‘endemic and worsening since Covid,’ Usdaw warns MPs

The latest Usdaw survey of 2,700 retail workers found that over the past year 88 per cent have been verbally abused and nearly one in 10 have been physically assaulted

VIOLENCE and abuse towards shopworkers is endemic and has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic, Usdaw warned MPs today.

The retail union’s head of research and economics Joanne Cairns told the Commons home affairs committee that the issue is a major concern and that fresh legislation is needed to protect staff.

The latest Usdaw survey of 2,700 retail workers found that over the past year 88 per cent have been verbally abused and nearly one in 10 (9 per cent) have been physically assaulted. 

Ms Cairns stressed that pandemic safety measures have been the common trigger, with some 85 per cent of incidents related to issues such as queueing, social distancing and face-mask requirements.

She said: “I think it’s important to remember that we expect retail workers to enforce the law, but they are not being given adequate protection.

“They can lose their jobs if they don’t enforce the law so, in turn, we think they should be offered protection by the law.”

Ms Cairns said that current legislation is “clearly not offering enough protection” to shopworkers.

In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a groundbreaking new law to protect retail workers after years of Usdaw campaigning. But ministers in Westminster have persistently opposed new legislation.

In February, 66 senior retail leaders wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing shopworkers.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “[The survey results] clearly show the scale of the appalling abuse, threats and violence faced by retail workers.

“It has been a terrible year for our members. Retail workers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough.

“Abuse should never be just a part of the job.”

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