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Wisbech, March and District Trades Council hears reports of staff abuse

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There are calls for new laws to be put in place to protect staff subjected to abuse.

A steep increase in abuse during lockdown was reported to Wisbech, March and District Trades Council at their monthly online meeting by Rachel Goodwin from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW).

Rachel is now calling for a new Protection of Shopkeepers law to protect retail staff and criminalise assault, abuse or threat after shop workers on the pandemic front line spoke of being threatened, abused and even assaulted by customers.

A recent survey carried out by USDAW has found that 90 per cent of 5,000 shop workers interviewed had experienced verbal abuse.

Wisbech Town Centre. (11520154)
Wisbech Town Centre. (11520154)

Rachel said: “It's happening in small shops and in the big supermarkets. Some managements have been good at dealing with it, others haven't. We've had bottles thrown about the place and workers sworn at.

"One cashier had a car driven at them outside the store and the police were called. Customers have got angry about wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and following the aisle walk directions.

"On top of that people have been thoughtless. 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.”

The survey also found that 60 per cent of workers interviewed had been threatened by a customer and nine percent had been physically assaulted.

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

Scottish MSPs have recently passed a law to protect shop staff but in England the Government has opposed a Bill. USDAW is urging MPs to support it.

Wednesday, April 28, is Workers' Memorial Day when the Trades Council will be remembering all key workers in the public, private and voluntary sectors and asking people to wear something purple as a mark of respect.

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