Respect for Shopworkers: Co-op chief joins Usdaw leader and Mayor of London to launch national awareness week

11 November 2019

Co-op Food’s Chief Executive Jo Whitfield joined Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London and USDAW’s Dave McCrossen at Whitehall today (11 November) to launch the union’s Respect for Shopworkers’ Week – a programme of events which aims to hit home the message that threatening behaviour and abuse towards shopworkers is unacceptable.
Forming part of Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear campaign, union representatives around the country will be hosting activities which encourage shoppers to “Keep Your Cool”, reminding them that abuse is not part of the job.

The Co-op, which last year launched its own Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities initiative, is calling upon the Government to take radical action to help better protect shop workers in the face of a retail crime ‘epidemic’.

Research released by Dr Emmeline Taylor last month, on behalf of the retailer, showed that violence in the sector is at its highest level since 2012, with latest statistics showing that workers fall victim to 42,000 violent incidents with 115 colleagues physically attacked every day.

A Home Office call for evidence to aid its understanding of the problem, received feedback from over 600 Co-op colleagues who shared their own experiences of violence and abuse.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food’s Chief Executive, said: “Shop workers across the UK should be able to go to work every day, safe in the knowledge that they will not be attacked, abused or made to feel unsafe. Sadly this is not a true reflection of what’s happening in stores up and down the country and I am here, on behalf of my Co-op colleagues, to support USDAW as we stand together and say: enough is enough.

“Co-op research shows that store crime has reached intolerable levels. Whilst the retail industry is doing everything in its power to prevent attacks, five months on from the Home Office’s own call for evidence we are calling upon the Government, along with law enforcers, to accelerate action to help us develop a strategy which can address this epidemic of violence. Systemic change is needed to address not just the symptoms, but the root cause. We cannot wait any longer.”

Usdaw’s Deputy General Secretary, Dave McCrossen, commented: “We launch Usdaw’s 2019 Respect for Shopworkers’ Week as violence, threats and abuse continue to be growing issues for retail staff. We have been working with a number of employers to tackle abuse against retail staff and campaigning with politicians, police forces and the Home Office on the impact of violence against shopworkers.

“As a result of the Government’s austerity programme 20,000 police officers have been taken off the streets, meaning that over 40% of retail workers have never seen a police officer patrolling their store. Government changes have also meant that shoplifting under the value of £200 is now unlikely to be dealt with as crime or anti-social behaviour. Not only is this appalling threshold actively encouraging so called ‘low-level’ crime, it also completely fails to account for the impact that retail crime has on the workforce.

“Usdaw is committed to campaigning for an Assaults on Retail Workers Bill. At the same time, we need to ensure that there are enough police officers on the streets to be able to enforce the law. Shopworkers already start to believe that abuse is now an expected part of the job and that there is nothing that can be done about it. Usdaw is clear that abuse is not part of the job.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m proud to support Usdaw’s excellent campaign to help keep shopworkers safe. It’s simply unacceptable that, for every minute of the working day, a shopworker is verbally abused, threatened with violence or physically attacked. Nobody should have to go to work fearful for their own safety. That’s why I applaud Usdaw, the Co-op and everyone in the retail sector who is sending out the message that threatening behaviour and abuse towards shopworkers will not be tolerated.”

The Co-op has invested over £70m in colleague safety including the installation of the latest remote monitored CCTV; communication headset devices rolled-out to all front-line colleagues and, the targeted deployment of SmartWater Fog Cannons and has committed to matching this over the next three years.

Dr Emmeline Taylor’s research for the Co-op’s Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities report, entitled “It’s not part of the job” can be found here.


Further information:
Aimi McNeill
T: 07739657585