According to Usdaw, every minute of every day a shopworker somewhere is assaulted, threatened or abused. Next week I’ll be visiting staff at the Selston Co-op branch in my Ashfield constituency as part of Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign. It’s something I would urge all Labour MPs and councillors to do – when it comes to working out how to tackle this abuse nothing is going to beat hearing the issues directly from the people who are affected by them.
The campaign is really well timed. Though you might think the season of good will extends to shopworkers, the reality is that the festive season is a time when incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers tend to increase. Research published by the British Retail Consortium indicates that in the last 12 months incidents of violence and verbal assault against retail staff have risen by 83 per cent. Earlier this year the BRC released a new best practice guide for employers to increase awareness of the impact that violence against staff has on employees and to challenge the perception that abuse of shopworkers is acceptable.
The guidelines, called Tackling Violence Against Staff, are endorsed by Usdaw and show the extent of the action being taken by retailers to keep their members safe. These include having clear policies against violence and abuse, robust store based risk assessments, appropriate store layout, security and preventative measures, good staff training and reporting procedures and providing support for staff after incidents. We need to do all we can to protect shopworkers – no one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. So I’ll be going along to listen to the views from the shop floor and though I don’t want to pre-empt what they are going to say, I can think of a few things I won’t hear. I don’t imagine I’ll be hearing many calls to cut police numbers or scrap ASBOs. This government is sending out the wrong signals at the wrong time. It may be the season to for us all to be jolly but it won’t necessarily be the case if you are a shopworker.
The festive season brings its own stresses and strains for us all, but remember to heed Usdaw’s call and ‘Keep your Cool at Christmas’.
Gloria De Piero is MP for Ashfield and a member of the Progress Strategy Board. She tweets @GloriaDePieroMP
Violence against shopworkers is a serious social issue, but it’s also a significant economic one. We need our retail environment to be an attractive and safe place for customers, and this issue can undermine shops (particularly in deprived areas or in smaller stores where there is likely to be less security on hand).
If fewer people want to visit our retail environment, it will have a detrimental impact on tax revenues, jobs and growth. That’s why I am delighted to be working together with Usdaw and Gloria to highlight this campaign.
One Nation requires customers and store workers to be as safe in Bootle as they are in Bexhill, and as safe in a corner shop as they are in a major department store. A united, zero tolerance approach to store violence is in everyone’s interests.
Toby Perkins is MP for Chesterfield and a vice-chair of Progress. He tweets @TobyPerkinsMP
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.