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Shopworkers' union Usdaw tells MSPs to act on violence and abuse

UNIONS told a Scottish Parliament committee today that something must be done to help protect shopworkers from violence and abuse.

Representatives of retail union Usdaw appeared before the economy, energy and fair work committee in support of the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill.

The proposed legislation, tabled by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, aims to create a specific offence of assaulting or abusing a shop or bar worker.

The Bill also seeks to make it illegal to hinder or obstruct a shopworker, with the possibility of adding an aggravation if the staff member is enforcing an age restriction.

Usdaw has come out in support of the legislation, arguing that it would provide better protection for the union’s members.

Scottish divisional officer Stewart Forrest said: “The statistics are shocking, showing that on average a Scottish shopworker can end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault more than once every three weeks.

“Our message is clear: abuse is not a part of the job.

“There needs to be a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, the judiciary and, most importantly, criminals.”

Others giving evidence spoke in favour of the reform, including representatives from the GMB union, with organiser Robert Deavy expressing the belief that his members would not feel protected under the current laws.

But questions were asked about the practicalities of the changes, including by Police Scotland.

Superintendent Ian Thomson said he had concerns about how hindrance and obstruction would be defined, as well as the chance of the Bill criminalising young people and “impacting on their life choices.”

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