Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has released statistics revealing one in six shop workers have suffered abuse on every shift, during the coronavirus pandemic.
The statistics revealed 62% of the 4,928 shopworkers surveyed have experienced verbal abuse, with almost a third being threatened by a customer. Usdaw also revealed 4% of employees were assaulted, which amounts to more than 3,500 every day when averaged across all retail workers.
One worker told the union: “I had never cried at work until the first week of the lockdown. I received constant abuse from nearly every customer during one shift when the rules were changed so that we couldn’t accept returns. I finally broke when one woman refused to leave the store and insulted me and berated me for not doing the return.
“The following day a man was very aggressive towards me for the same reason and I could visibly see him twitching in a way that suggested he was about to become violent. My job has become emotionally draining and it is really starting to affect my mental health.”
Usdaw is calling for urgent action to tackle this “growing problem” and Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds is seeking assurances from the government that tackling these crimes is a policing priority throughout this crisis.
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “We are shocked that violence, threats and abuse have doubled during this national emergency. At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a national disgrace that people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted.
“Urgent action is required. 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.”
He added: “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 contract Covid-19.”