Usdaw leader launches shopworker protection petition

Paddy Lillis

In response to continued growing assaults, threats and abuse against shopworkers and the doubling of such incidents during the coronavirus emergency, Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis has launched a House of Commons petition calling on the Government to legislate to protect shopworkers.

Usdaw’s surveys of shopworkers found that on average UK shopworkers were verbally abused, threatened or assaulted every fortnight in 2019, but that average doubled to every week during the Coronavirus emergency.

Lillis said it was a “national disgrace” that people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted.

The shopworkers union leader had a clear message for the public: “Abuse is not part of the job.”

He said: “The safety of our members is absolutely paramount, but they tell us that some of the shopping public are resisting safety measures in stores and can become abusive when asked to queue, maintain social distancing or reminded to wear a face mask. Our message to the public is there is no excuse for abusing shopworkers, please treat our members with the respect they deserve.”

Urging the Government not to dismiss his petition, Lillis reiterated his call for new legislation: “Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”

Retail employers and trade associations were quick to back the petition.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “We need Parliament to pass legislation to provide better protection to retail workers.

“Retail violence harms victims, their colleagues, their families and their communities. I hope everyone will rally round our retail heroes and sign this important petition to help put an end to this scourge.”

Jo Whitfield, Chief Executive, Co-op Food, commented: “As valued key workers, it is important that we send a signal throughout our society that this is unacceptable to treat them this way. It’s time to draw a line in the sand – and by taking legislative action, Government can show that they have listened and acted upon the concerns that I know are shared right the way across the retail sector.”

Association of Convenience Stores Chief Executive James Lowman said: “It is unacceptable that our colleagues are facing violence and abuse whilst trying to do their job, these incidents are devastating for the colleagues affected.

“Enough is enough, we need the Government to take effective and urgent action to protect shop workers and send a clear message to perpetrators that violent and abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.”