SHOPWORKERS in Rugby have been praised during Respect for Shopworkers Week by the town’s MP – who is echoing calls for the law to better protect them from violent and abusive customers.
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey visited the Co-op’s new store in Clifton Road in a show of support – as new figures show the record levels of violence and abuse faced by retail staff.
A survey by retail trade union Usdaw found that 89 per cent of shopworkers had experienced verbal abuse and 64 per cent had been threatened by a customer in the last 12 months.
And the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Annual Crime Survey showed that violence and abuse against staff has risen to over 450 incidents a day.
To coincide with Respect for Shopworkers Week, Co-op has raised awareness of USDAW’s Freedom from Fear Campaign and promoted a message of ‘respect for shopworkers’.
Co-op is also campaigning for a new protection of workers law in England and Wales, based on legislation that came into force in Scotland earlier this year.
The retailer has invested over £140million in technology to keep colleagues safe over the past five years, including remote monitored CCTV and body-worn cameras that can send real time audio and visual footage to its security operations centre at the touch of a button.
The Co-op wants the Government to use its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to provide shopworkers in England and Wales with the same protection that the Scottish Parliament has provided for colleagues in Scotland.
After meeting with the Co-op’s Area Manager Simon Taylor and the Rugby Store Manager Joel McTeggart, Mr Pawsey said: “Retail workers have been on the front line over the past 18 months, providing an absolutely vital service even at the height of the pandemic.
“Any violence or abuse against them is totally unacceptable, and those who do so should be met with the full force of the law.
“I wanted to thank the staff at Rugby’s Co-op for what they do and show my support during Respect for Shopworkers week. I was very concerned to hear from those who have experienced violence or abuse whilst working, and I will be raising these issues with my colleagues in Government as the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill comes before the House of Commons.”
Simon Taylor added: “Shopworkers work at the heart of communities and played an amazing role, especially throughout the pandemic, and so we are delighted that Mark was able to meet and talk to frontline colleagues.
“While the majority of customers are fantastic, and really value the role their local store plays in the community, the abuse and assaults that frontline shopworkers can face on a daily basis should not be part of the job. It is not just the physical impact on colleagues, but their mental wellbeing too. We have had colleagues pushed, shoved, spat at and threatened with knives.
“Shopworkers should be able to carry out their role in local community life free from fear. And, while we are doing all we can, we also call for a specific shopworkers’ law, I believe it will send out a clear message and start to bring about a change in the perception that it is ok to attack and abuse shopworkers.”