As many shops reopen to customers today, shopworkers union Usdaw has called on shoppers to respect retail staff following a rise in reports of abuse during the coronavirus crisis.
After being closed for almost three months during the coronavirus lockdown, ‘non-essential’ shops up and down the country have been allowed to reopen to shoppers today (Monday 15 June).
Earlier this year, shopworkers’ union Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) revealed that retail workers in ‘essential’ stores such as supermarkets were subject to an alarming rise in abuse from customers – which included reports of shopworkers being spat at and coughed on by offenders.
Statistics released by Usdaw show that one in six shop workers have suffered some form of abuse on every shift they have worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. 62% of retail staff surveyed by Usdaw have experienced verbal abuse, with nearly a third of respondents reporting they have been threatened by a customer. The trade union also revealed that 4% of shopworkers were assaulted, which adds up to more than 3,500 every day on average in the UK’s shops and supermarkets.
Now with popular stores such as Primark and Sports Direct opening their doors, Usdaw has urged customers to respect shopworkers and called on employers to ensure safe working conditions for staff.
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said:
The safety of our members and the public is our top priority, so Usdaw worked with the British Retail Consortium on joint safety guidance for shops. Retailers have to publish risk assessments and implement robust safety measures before they reopen and we urge employers to work with the union to ensure their staff have a proper say in that process.
Importantly shops should not be allowed to remain open if retailers do not follow the guidance and operate safely. We will continually monitor the situation and support our members as they return to work.
However, safety in stores needs customer co-operation and I am shocked that abuse of shopworkers has doubled during the Coronavirus emergency. It is a disgrace that a minority behave this way, at a time when we should be pulling together to get through this appalling pandemic. At no time should abuse be a part of the job. Shopworkers deserve respect.
With over 400,000 members, Usdaw is the fifth largest trade union in the UK. The majority of Usdaw’s members work in the retail sector, but the union also represents members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing and other trades.