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8 in 10 shopworkers say abuse has worsened during the pandemic

RETAIL union Usdaw has called for legislation to protect shopworkers after data to be published today shows that nearly eight in 10 staff said abuse from customers has got worse during the pandemic.

The union’s survey of 2,729 shop staff in 2020 found that 88 per cent experienced verbal abuse, nearly two thirds were threatened by a customer and 9 per cent were assaulted.

Shopworkers have reported being “pushed, shoved [and] trolley-rammed” by panic-buying customers and even being coughed on, putting them at risk of contracting Covid-19.

Last month, senior retail leaders wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker in England.

This followed the House of Commons home affairs select committee launching an inquiry into the issue late last year after Usdaw secured over 100,000 signatures on a “protect shopworkers” petition.  

In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a groundbreaking new law to protect shopworkers, with ministers in Wales also announcing plans to strengthen legislation to make workplaces and shops safe.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said the scale of the “appalling violence, threats and abuse” faced by shop staff demonstrated the need for a “protection of shopworkers” law.

“It has been a terrible year for our members, with almost 90 per cent of shopworkers suffering abuse,” he said.

“We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough: abuse should never be part of the job.”

“The [Westminster] government has persistently opposed new legislation, offering little more than sympathy.

“We are now looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the government’s opposition.”

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