Fleur meeting with local Co-op staff in November
Fleur meeting with local Co-op staff in November

MPs reject new law to protect shopworkers as local shops face increase in incidents of abuse and violence.

Fleur Anderson, MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, voted in favour of an amendment to the Police & Crime Bill which would have provided greater protection for shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse. Sadly, the amendment was rejected by MPs.

Violence against shop workers has been a problem for a number of years now but the situation has undoubtedly worsened during the pandemic. The shocking reality is that shopworkers are facing a rising tide of abuse and violence. 450 shopworkers are attacked every day in the UK, according to USDAW, the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores. During COVID19 Co-op stores alone saw a 76% increase in abuse and a 10% increase in violent attacks of which over half involve a weapon.

A 21 year-old shopworker at Co-op’s Putney store, said:
“I have worked in retail for around four years and crime, violence, anti-social behaviour and abuse is the worst I have ever seen, and it keeps getting worse.

“The majority of customers are great, we are often on first name terms with our regular customers – they really value the role of a local convenience store. But others think it is ok to abuse and hurt us.

“On one occasion, a lady came into the store and helped herself to some carrier-bags. I tried to explain that there was a charge for carrier bags, she got so angry, punched me in the head and kicked my legs. I have also seen a suspected shoplifter pull out two knives on a colleague, just for a packet of sandwiches. We have even had people threaten that they will wait for us after work. It makes you worry, I was scared to go into work afterwards, you shouldn’t have to feel like that about work.

“Co-op does everything it can – we have guards, body-worn cameras, communication headsets and CCTV.  But there needs to be a really strong message sent to those who think it is ok to abuse shopworkers that it really is not acceptable.”

Fleur Anderson, MP for Putney said:

“I am terribly disappointed that the Government rejected the new law to help protect shopworkers against the ever-increasing levels of abuse they face on a daily basis.

“I have heard some really harrowing stories from people who work in our local shops. I get the impression that most people wouldn’t imagine that it would happen on their doorsteps, in the shops they visit every day. The truth is that this happens everywhere and it is only getting worse. No one should have to fear going to work or live under the constant threat of violence.

“Many shopworkers have worked right through the pandemic, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk to make sure we’re able buy essential items. They have been responsible for insuring that customers wear masks and adhere to social distancing rules. We have clapped for our key workers, now the least we can do is try to make them safe in their workplace.

“The Minister promised during the debate that they would bring an amendment in the House of Lords. I want the Government to stop opposing these new measures and bring through new protections for shopworkers as soon as possible. It cannot wait.”

After the vote Paddy Lillis – USDAW General Secretary said:
“Today MPs had the opportunity to back a new law to protect shopworkers, which is supported by our members, customers and retailers. We are deeply disappointed that they let that opportunity pass them by at a time when our members are facing unprecedented levels of violence, threats and abuse.”

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