Retail trade union Usdaw hosted a summit of retail employers and their representative bodies, looking at the continuing problem of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, along with wider issues related to retail crime.
The summit, in London, took place at the beginning of Usdaw’s annual Respect for Shopworkers Week and the union released new statistics to demonstrate the scale of a growing problem.
Interim results from over 4,600 retail staff responses show that in the last twelve months (pre-pandemic levels in brackets, from the 2019 survey):
· 71% (67%) have experienced verbal abuse.
· 48% (42%) were threatened by a customer.
· 5% (5%) were assaulted.
· 45% said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference.
· 20% of those who had been assaulted did not report the incident.
Usdaw launched a new report at the summit ‘Protecting Retail Workers: Sharing Best Practices’, highlighting some of the best practices across the retail industry, which reported to Usdaw in their survey of retailers. The report looks at community engagement, workplace environmental design, physical security, work and reporting procedures, along with supportive managers and employment policies. Full document at: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFsummit22
Paddy Lillis - Usdaw General Secretary says: “A key part of the Usdaw ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign is working with employers to help make stores safe working environments and protect our members from abuse and attacks. It is shocking that our survey found that over 7 in 10 of retail staff are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. While a number of recent triggers for abuse, such as face masks and social distancing, no longer apply; the level of issues faced by retail workers is still higher than before the pandemic.
“The retailer’s response to our survey, who employ nearly one million workers, clearly demonstrates the sector’s commitment to tackling abuse of shopworkers and highlights best practice ideas. The aim of this project is to bring the industry together and work collaboratively to tackle violence and abuse. We sincerely hope that all retailers will find this report useful and provide ideas on how to better tackle the issue.
“However, this is not a concern that can be resolved by the retail industry alone. Despite the investment and engagement from so many retailers, violence and abuse have continued to rise. If we are to truly tackle these issues, we must continue to engage with politicians and the police, to press for action on retail crime prevention, detection and access to justice. The summit is another step along our journey to provide ‘Freedom from Fear’ for all retail workers.”
Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson OBE, said: “No one should go to work fearing for their safety, yet once again we are being presented with another shocking set of data that illustrates the scale of the problem. Those retail colleagues affected are our parents, our partners, and our children, and they have suffered needlessly, just for doing their job. They can bear the emotional scars and carry the trauma for the rest of their lives. It is vital that the police prioritise retail crime in their local policing strategies and improve their response to incidents.”
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We strongly support Respect for Shopworkers Week, which highlights the scale of verbal and physical abuse faced by people working in retail. In the convenience sector alone, retailers reported over 800,000 incidents of verbal abuse over the last year, and we believe that is just a fraction of what takes place every day. It is crucial that incidents of abuse are reported to the police, as we know that if not dealt with, criminals become more confident and commit more serious crime without fear of reproach.”
Paul Gerrard, Co-op’s Campaigns, Public Affairs and Board Secretariat Director, said: “Shopworkers should not have to fear for their safety when working to serve and support their communities. We have continually said that violence and abuse ‘should not be part of the job’.
“Co-op has been Usdaw’s strongest supporter in fighting for greater protection for shopworkers, and new legislation coming into force over the last year has been welcomed. What we need to see now is continued collaboration across law enforcement and the industry and, for the new legal protections to be prioritised and used by the police and the courts - sending out a clear message that it is not OK for those working in retail to face abuse, threats and attacks and to give shopworkers the reassurance and protection that they need and deserve.”