MSPs urged to support shopworkers

Pete Cheema

SGF’s Chief Executive Pete Cheema has given evidence (3 March) to the Scottish Parliament on the proposed Protection of Workers Bill.

The legislation is a member’s Bill proposed by Daniel Johnson MSP and seeks to give shop workers similar protection from assault and abuse as emergency workers now have. The Bill also proposes a new aggravated offence in relation to a shop worker carrying out a mandatory duty such as age verification or refusal of sale.

In a powerful statement drawing on personal experience of over 30 years in retail, Cheema said the crucial long-term impact of racial equality legislation had been to successfully change the attitudes of both the police and the public towards hate crime and that the Protection of Workers Bill would have the same long-term impact on retail crime.

Urging MSPs to throw their full support behind the Bill, Cheema said: “We’ve had enough. I’ve been spat at! I’ve been called names! I’ve been threatened! I’ve been attacked! You legislate and we have to enforce that legislation in our stores and deal with the consequences. Now you need to help create a safer retail environment.”

The Bill is being scrutinised by the Economy and Fair Work Committee. The Committee also took evidence from The Law Society of Scotland; Police Scotland; Scottish Retail Consortium; The Scottish Beer and Pub Association; Co-operative Group; GMB; and Usdaw.

Usdaw Scottish Divisional Officer Stewart Forrest commented: “It was disappointing to hear the Law Society of Scotland and Police Scotland repeatedly say that they don’t have the necessary statistics to understand where the system is letting down shopworkers. Five years ago Usdaw expressed concern that the Scottish Government had stopped recording assaults of shopworkers, at a time when we believed that incidents of violence at work were increasing, which according to our surveys has proved to be the case. So, we called on the Scottish Government to commit to once again record incidents of violence at work. Clearly the legal profession and the police do not believe that is happening.”

The Committee is due to make its recommendations to Parliament in May.