Usdaw ‘disappointed’ PM fails to back shop worker protection law

Retail trade union Usdaw has criticised the prime minister for failing to back a new law to protect shop workers from violence.

The trade union has called for a firm commitment from the government to take all available actions to tackle the issue.

The news comes as Usdaw revealed 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.

Alex Norris MP (Labour, Nottingham North) welcomed the measures proposed in the government response, during PMQs earlier this week, but asked if the government would support a change in the law if they were shown not to have worked.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary said: “Zero-tolerance is easy to say, but means very little if it is not backed up by actions. We are deeply disappointed that the government and now the Prime Minister have not backed legislating for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. 

“They have failed to listen to the voices of shop workers and retailers, who had jointly called for a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.”

He added:“ We recognise that there are a series of measures in the government response that are worth trying and we hope that they can make a real difference. They would be much more likely to succeed if they were backed up with new legislation, but it is clear that the government is desperately trying to avoid that. 

“The prime minister had a chance to show he has confidence in the government’s approach, by promising new legislation if it fails, but he ducked it.”

He concluded: “Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law. 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 disgrace that the people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted. Our message is clear, abuse is not part of the job.”

Earlier this week, the government vowed to crack down on violence and abuse against shopworkers.

In a statement, the Home Office said it will work with National Retail Crime Steering Group (NRCSG) on a best practice guide to support staff in reporting these crimes, strengthening and making full use of existing laws, and improving data sharing between businesses and the police.

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