Shopworkers speak out about violence, threats and abuse

EAST of England shopworkers speak out about violence, threats and abuse – Usdaw urges retail staff not to suffer in silence.

To highlight the annual Respect for Shopworkers week, taking place from 15 – 21 November, retail trade union Usdaw has today launched shocking statistics from their annual survey. Interim results from nearly 3,500 retail staff show that in the last twelve months:

  • 89% have experienced verbal abuse.
  • 64% were threatened by a customer.
  • 11% were assaulted.
  • 46% said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference.
  • 7% of those who had been assaulted did not report the incident.

East of England voices from the frontline: These are some of the comments East of England shopworkers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:

Bedfordshire: “Been called a c*nt and told to f*ck off several times.” – “I often get belittling comments from customers about my young age.” – “Fists being shaken in face by elderly male.” – “Had needles and a knife pointed at me.”

Cambridgeshire: “Got in my face pushed and blocked me in.” – “Rammed by a customer’s trolley and told to get out of the way. – “A mobility scooter deliberately driven into me once.” – “Told I’m useless, I can’t do my job, sworn at and spat at.”

Essex: “Had coins thrown in my face.” – “Swore at because some customers not wearing masks.” – “A lot of drunk people come in shop and think its ok to shout and swear at you.” – “Woman threatened to punch me as I refused an alcohol purchase.” 

Hertfordshire: “I’m a delivery driver and had customers swear at me because of substitutions, members of the public throw things at my van.” – “Threatening to have me fired, customers who believe we’re beneath them, so they talk down to us.”

Norfolk: “Lots of abuse due to asking for ID.” – “Asking if they would mind wearing a mask, going berserk asking if I was a doctor??” – “Customer threw shopping at me as she didn’t like self-checkouts.” – “Threats to ‘rip head off’, find out where we live.” 

Suffolk: “Threats are mostly about masks and Covid rules.” – “Banned customer threw a bag of coal at me and stormed out” – “Especially during the pandemic people deliberately coughing on us when offering them a mask!”

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from East of England shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers and demonstrate the need for a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law. 

“It is shocking that 9 in 10 of our members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. So it is extremely worrying that over half are not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference and 7% of those assaulted did not report the incident.

“The new protection of workers law in Scotland is welcome and we urge the UK Government to extend it to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.

“This is a hugely important issue for our members and they are saying loud and clear that enough is enough. The alarm bells are ringing and it is time for the Government to make a difference.”

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