// Shopworkers union Usdaw launches petition to protect retail workers against crime
// Usdaw recorded a rise in abuse cases during lockdown
A UK shopworkers union has begun a House of Commons petition in an effort to protect retail workers from violence and abuse.
Trade union Usdaw’s leader Paddy Lillis launched the petition after it recorded a sharp increase in the number of cases of abuse towards shopworkers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey found that on average, shopworkers faced verbal abuse, threats or assaults every fortnight in 2019.
However, those figures doubled to every week during the coronavirus lockdown period.
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The petition calls on the House of Commons to enact legislation that protects retail workers, including making the abuse a specific offence that carries out a serious penalty.
It includes testimonials from shopworkers who speak on own experiences of “constant abuse”.
“We are appalled that violence, threats and abuse have doubled during this national emergency,” Lillis said.
“At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a national disgrace that people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted.
“Further action is required and that is why we have launched this petition today. Our message is clear: abuse is not part of the job.
“Life on the front line of retail is normally pretty tough for many shopworkers and has become much worse during the coronavirus emergency.
“Shopworkers are on the front line of feeding the country, providing an essential service in very difficult circumstances, working long hours in busy stores, facing abuse from customers and, of course, concerned that they may become infected with Covid-19.
“In light of the unacceptable increase in abuse of shopworkers, there needs to be urgent action to help protect staff. I urge the government not to dismiss my petition, but to listen to the voices of shopworkers and legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers.
“They have talked about zero tolerance, but that means very little if it is not backed up by strong actions.
“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected; they deserve the protection of the law.”
Last month, the government responded to calls to crack down on abuse and violence against shopworkers.
The Home Office said in July that it would work with the National Retail Crime Steering Group (NRCSG) on a “best practice guide to support staff in reporting these crimes”.
It also aims to “strengthen existing laws and improve data sharing between retail businesses and the police”.
The government said its crime and policing minister would also write to police chiefs “underscoring the importance of working closely with local businesses to tackle this issue and emphasising that the theft of goods valued up to £200 from a shop should be prosecuted as a criminal offence”.