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Nearly a third of shopworkers think of quitting because of violence, threats and abuse, union survey finds

NEARLY a third of shopworkers are on the verge of quitting due to spiralling levels of in-store violence, threats and abuse, retail union Usdaw warned yesterday.

Around 30 per cent are considering a change of job and four in 10 feel anxious at work because of abusive customers, according to Usdaw’s latest annual survey.

The poll of more than 7,700 staff found that about three-quarters have suffered verbal abuse, up from 68 per cent in 2019 – and 49 per cent have been directly threatened, a 6 per cent increase on four years ago.

Eight per cent have been outright assaulted, up on 2019’s 5 per cent. 

One worker listed incidents in the survey as: “Kettle thrust in my face, curling tongs hurled at me, can of Red Bull thrown over my head, called every profanity known.”

Another noted: “Refused petrol, was called a fat prick, tried to stop my colleague being assaulted and got punched in my face.”

The shocking findings are in line with the latest British Retail Consortium research, which warned last week that daily incidents of in-store racial and sexual abuse and physical assaults – including threats with weapons – nearly doubled from a 2019-20 high of more than 450 to over 850 in 2021-22.

Usdaw head Paddy Lillis said: “No-one should feel afraid to go to work, but our evidence shows that too many retail workers are.

“While Covid triggers for abuse, such as face masks and social distancing, have gone, the level of incidents faced by retail workers is now higher than before the pandemic.

“Faced with such high levels of aggression from customers, it is of little surprise that so many are considering changing their job. 

“The potential cost for retail employers to recruit, train and induct new staff adds to the astronomical price they already pay for theft from shops and security measures – that will have an inevitable impact on prices in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.”

Mr Lillis urged “better co-ordination to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safer and support staff.”

He also reiterated calls for the public to show due respect to the key workers across the industry. 

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