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Union slams government's inaction on protecting shopworkers' rights

Ministers reject Usdaw's calls for new legislation despite cross-party backing from MPs

USDAW has slammed government inaction on protecting shopworkers after ministers again rejected the retail union’s calls for new legislation despite cross-party backing from MPs. 

The issue was debated in the Commons on Monday evening after more than 100,000 people signed the union’s petition calling for assaults against shop staff to be made a specific statutory offence. 

Despite receiving support from Labour, SNP and Tory MPs, Home Office Minister Chris Philp declined to offer government support for the move. The Scottish Parliament voted for a new law to safeguard retail staff in January.

Usdaw is now calling for MPs to back a Labour protection of shopworkers amendment to the Tory government’s much criticised Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill. 

This comes after a recent British Retail Consortium survey found that violence and abuse against shop staff rose by 7 per cent in the year to April 2020, with an average of 455 incidents a day.

Usdaw says the problem has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic: the vast majority of workers who responded to its 2020 safety survey reported verbal abuse at work and 9 per cent said they had suffered physical assault. 

General secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Unfortunately, we heard only warm words and hollow platitudes from the minister when he responded to the debate.

“It is frustrating to hear the government yet again claim that existing offences are enough when the problem continues to grow.

“Usdaw is looking for a clear message that violence against someone working to serve the public is not acceptable, which is exactly what MPs called for [on Monday].”

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