Usdaw survey shows one in 10 retail workers are assaulted while on the job
A CATALOGUE of violence, verbal abuse and threats against shopworkers has been revealed by their union at the start of a week of campaigning by retail staff.
In a survey of 2,250 retail staff, 44 per cent were verbally abused and 25 per cent were threatened, while almost one in 10 said they’d been assaulted by a customer in the last year — although one-third of them didn’t report it.
Incidents included staff being threatened with knives, strangled, and having goods thrown at them — including an electric toaster and a hot chicken.
Union Usdaw carried out the survey to mark its annual Respect for Shopworkers Week, which started yesterday.
Reports included: a woman shopworker in Chertsey who said: “A male customer grabbed me by the collar and also cornered me against the gate.”
A Corby shopworker said she was verbally abused every week but in the last 12 months she had “been pushed to [the] ground, threatened and spat at by customers.”
A Birmingham shopworker reported being attacked several times in the last 12 months. “I have had my finger twisted, been scratched, spat on, sworn at and had racist comments made to me,” she said.
Theft is often a trigger for violence. A Northwich shopworker reported: “I was attacked at work when I caught a customer stealing — they tried to strangle me.”
A shopworker from the Midlands said: “I was punched by a customer when trying to stop a robbery.”
A shopworker from Bridlington who was verbally abused almost weekly and the victim of physical abuse at least once a month said: “I’ve been smacked, headbutted, spat at and kicked.”
Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers is one of the great scourges of our society. The statistics are shocking and show that urgent action is required.
“All too often criminals who assault staff are not even sent to court. Those who are can receive derisory sentences.”
He called for creation of a specific offence of assault on workers and pointed out that on four occasions Tories and Lib Dems had voted down Labour proposals.