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Unions urge shoppers to help keep workers safe as stores across England are reopened

by Matt Trinder

Industrial reporter

UNIONS urged shoppers to help keep workers safe as many non-essential stores reopened in England today.

The TUC and retail union Usdaw caled for respect for staff as shops, hairdressers, pub beer gardens and pavement cafes began to trade again. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the nation to “behave responsibly,” with indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail salons and zoos also welcoming customers as lockdown restrictions ease.

Usdaw warned that the pandemic had seen a shocking rise in violence against staff, with incidents often occurring when workers encourage customers to follow Covid-19 safety rules.

The union’s 2020 shopworker survey found that 88 per cent had experienced verbal abuse and 9 per cent had even been assaulted, while the vast majority said the issue had worsened over the past year.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis welcomed the reopening of stores but warned that the virus is “still out there.”

“We expect employers to conduct full risk assessments, follow the agreed guidance and ensure that customers are fully informed of safety measures,” he said.  

“Shoppers need to play their part in helping to limit the spread of the virus and avoid further lockdowns by following the rules and respecting staff.

“Abuse should never be part of the job and shopworkers — who played a vital role in getting food and medicine into our homes during the pandemic — deserve our thanks and respect.”

The TUC reminded shoppers to keep their distance, think about ventilation and speak up for shop workers if necessary.

Ventilation in workplaces such as open doors and windows in shops is a key factor in mitigating airborne infection risk, according to the national Hazards Campaign and the government’s own scientists.

TUC Yorkshire & Humber regional secretary Bill Adams said: “If workplaces aren’t Covid-secure, cases could spiral out of control again.

“Ministers must tell the Health & Safety Executive to crack down on bad bosses who play fast and loose with workers’ safety.

“It’s a national scandal that not a single employer has been prosecuted and fined for putting workers at risk.

“Ministers must [also] raise statutory sick pay to the level of the real living wage and make sure everyone can get it.”

Non-essential stores have also reopened in Wales with pub beer gardens to follow from April 26.  

Most stores in Scotland are expected to reopen from the same date as rules are also relaxed there. 

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