Doncaster shopworkers report rise in abuse with muggings, threats and being spat at by customers

Retail trade union Usdaw has renewed a call for legislation to protect retail staff after they released new statistics showing that 79 per cent of shopworkers say abuse was worse last year.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 9:00 am

The final results of Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that: 88 per cent experienced verbal abuse, 60 per cent were threatened by a customer, and nine per cent were assaulted.

Some of the comments from the Doncaster frontline, and South Yorkshire region as whole, included: “I had a trolley thrown into my stomach.” - “Swearing, shouting, threatening to wait until finished work.” - “Spat at by shoplifter.” - “Mugged in the car park, stole handbag and shopping. Hit by an old man with his stick.”

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Rise in shopworkers being abused

Elsewhere across the whole of Yorkshire came comments including: Humber: “A customer poked me, I've been spat on, called names.” - “Swearing, throwing stock at staff, coughing at staff and on public ATM machines.” - “Regularly shoplifting. Every day shouting, swearing, intimidation and pushing/shoving.” - “Verbal abuse due to not having ID. Confrontation when a customer was stealing.” - “Verbally offensive customers who have been horrible to myself and other staff due to lack of stock nearly every day for over 2 weeks.”- “Spat in the face, thumped in the chest and head butted.” - “When I was pregnant an angry customer repeatedly knocked his trolley into me, he was charging down the aisle towards me.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary said: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from Yorkshire 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 has been a terrible year for our members, with almost 90 per cent of shopworkers suffering abuse, two-thirds threatened and one in ten assaulted.

“We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job. At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a disgrace that staff working to keep food on the shelves and the shop safe for customers are being abused. Action to protect shop workers is needed.

“The UK Government has persistently opposed new legislation, offering little more than sympathy and objecting to the Alex Norris protection of shopworkers bill in the House of Commons. We are now looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the UK Government’s opposition.”

Late last year, the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the issue the day after Usdaw secured over 100,000 signatures on a ‘protect shopworkers’ petition. In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a ground-breaking new law to protect shopworkers. In February, 66 senior retail leaders wrote to the Prime Minister urging the Government to create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.