Trades group hears of alarming rise in shop worker abuse amid Covid

Shop worker abuse Covid

Wisbech, March and District Trades Council heard of the alarming rise in shop worker abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic in a meeting with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. - Credit: Blake Wisz/Unsplash

A local trades group was told of the alarming rise in the number of shop workers threatened, abused and assaulted during the Covid-19 pandemic in a bid to tackle the issue. 

Workers being sworn at and a car driven at a cashier were just some of the issues highlighted at Wisbech, March and District Trades Council’s monthly meeting. 

“We've had bottles thrown about and workers sworn at; one cashier had a car driven at them and the police were called,” Rachel Goodwin, of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) who spoke at the online meeting, said. 

“Customers have got angry about wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and following the aisle walk directions.” 

A Freedom for Fear survey conducted by USDAW between March and April last year found nearly 90 per cent of the 5,000 shop workers who took part had experienced verbal abuse. 

In the 2020 survey, one in six workers said this type of abuse was happening on a daily basis, 60pc had been threatened by a customer and nine per cent were physically attacked. 

Ms Goodwin also told the local group her urge for a new Protection of Shopkeepers law to protect retail staff and criminalise assault, abuse or threat. 

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Respondents to the survey also called for more security staff and better management support, as well as offenders to be banned from shops, clearer Covid signage and more police involvement. 

“People have been thoughtless,” Ms Goodwin said.  

“For example, drivers have found themselves exposed to the risk of Covid by delivering to people who haven't mentioned they have symptoms or that they've tested positive.  

“More and more of our members have been suffering from stress and going off sick because of it.” 

In Scotland, MSPs have passed a law to protect retail staff, but USDAW are urging MPs in England to support it after they opposed a Bill. 

USDAWs the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. 

Most members work in the retail sector, but the union also has members in trades such as transport, distribution, food manufacturing and chemicals. 

A workers’ memorial day will be held on April 28 by the Trades Council to remember all key workers in the public, private and voluntary sectors and ask people to wear purple as a mark of respect.