By Lucy Ashton

Jackie Baillie has responded with concern after shocking statistics from an annual survey run by shop workers’ union Usdaw has shown high levels of verbal abuse, threats and assaults.

The survey found that despite the number of incidents reducing from those seen during the pandemic they remain higher than pre-Covid levels.

In the last twelve months 74 percent of respondents say they have experienced verbal abuse compared to 68 percent in 2019. Some 49 percent said they had been threatened by a customer. It was 43 percent pre-pandemic. And eight percent report being assaulted, compared with five percent in 2019.

The findings reflect the trend identified in the annual retail crime survey published by the British Retail Consortium last week.

The trade association for retail also found that violence and abuse against shop workers is now higher than pre-pandemic levels. The survey revealed the total cost of retail crime stood at £1.76 billion in 2021/22.

Jackie Baillie, left,  said: “Shop workers were a lifeline to us during the pandemic and they continue to provide vital services in the communities of Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond.

“They should not have to go to work in fear of being abused whether that be verbally or physically. That is completely unacceptable.

“To hear that the levels of abuse, threats and violence remain higher now than they did before the pandemic is incredibly alarming. I welcome work undertaken locally to reintroduce a Dumbarton town centre police officer whose visible presence is undoubtedly helping but this needs to be replicated across the board.

“I back the campaign by Usdaw aiming to prevent violence, threats and abuse against shop staff.”

Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis said: “No-one should feel afraid to go to work, but our evidence shows that too many retail workers are. It is shocking that nearly three-quarters of our members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence.

“While Covid triggers for abuse, such as face masks and social distancing, have gone; the level of incidents faced by retail workers is now higher than before the pandemic.

“Violence and abuse is not an acceptable part of the job and too many shopworkers suffer all too often. We still need better co-ordination to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safer and give staff the support and confidence they need. Most of all, we ask the public to support our campaign by respecting shop workers.”

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.

Final results of the Usdaw 2022 survey, based on 7,752 responses, show that (last year’s results in brackets): 74.26% (89%) were verbally abused, 49.25% (63%) were threatened. 7.92% (12%) had been assaulted. 40.88% said violence, threats and abuse caused them anxiety at work and 29.97% are now considering changing job.

Comparison 2019 2020 2021 2022
Abuse 68% 88% 89% 74%
Threats 43% 61% 63% 49%
Violence 5% 9% 12% 8%

The full report can be found at:

Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shop workers and the Government.

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