662 words approx. 3 minutes to read
Every day, more than 250 retail workers face violence, just for doing their jobs. Six of those incidents will involve a knife, and in two a gun. For dozens of others, verbal abuse, intimidation and threats are a daily occurrence. It’s becoming considered ‘just part of the job’. It shouldn’t be.
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No one should face violence at work
In my own constituency of Nottingham North, we have three Co-op Food stores, on Arnold Road, Beckhampton Road and Bracebridge Drive, and I’m aware of several instances of this kind of crime. In one incident, a shoplifter threw food at the manager before making threatening gestures with a knife. On another occasion, a colleague was verbally abused, and the police called, after a customer was ID’d when buying a can of Red Bull.
These kinds of incidents will be familiar to all too many Co-op colleagues. It is right that the Co-op is taking this issue seriously and investing more resources on crime prevention in stores. But there is more we can all do, and a change in the law could play a significant part in turning the tide.
From alcohol and cigarettes to knives and acid, there are now more than 50 types of products that are restricted by law. The single biggest instance of attacks is when shop workers enforce these laws by challenging and verifying the age of those who want to buy age-restricted products, or when refusing to sell alcohol to customers who are drunk.
Nobody should face violence at work, and we have a particular responsibility to protect those who put themselves on the line to enforce the law. Unsurprisingly, the public overwhelmingly agree. I’ve obtained polling, commissioned by the Co-operative Party and undertaken by Populus, in which 85% of the public support the idea that the government owes a ‘duty of care’ to shop workers who enforce age restrictions on our behalf.
Employers, staff and the wider public understand the need for action to secure stronger protections for shop workers and support tougher penalties against those who assault or threaten them. That’s why over the next few weeks I and other MPs will be working in Parliament to call for new laws to protect shop workers. Find out more about how you can play your part.
This week I will be speaking in the House of Commons, to make the case for attacks on retail staff at work to be treated in court as ‘aggravated’ assaults. This would make offenders liable to a longer prison sentence, reflecting the fact that their victim was, at the time of the assault, acting in the public interest. It is a protection that already applies to doctors and other NHS staff.
Our next opportunity for a change in the law will come a week later, when MPs will vote on the Offensive Weapons Bill, which introduces age restrictions on the sale of acid and other corrosive substances. I and other Labour & Co-operative MPs will be backing an amendment from David Hanson MP, which is supported by a range of organisations including USDAW, which makes obstructing or threatening shop staff while doing their jobs an offence, with fines of up to £2,500.
Help change the law, tell your MP to vote
To win that vote, we need the support of MPs from all parties. I’m asking you to support our campaign for a change in the law making it an offence to assault, threaten or abuse a shop worker who is preventing an illegal sale of acid or knives.
Parliament has made shop workers – often working anti-social hours with limited support – responsible for policing the sale of alcohol, knives, glue and now acid at the checkout. It is an important civic responsibility that too often goes unrecognised.
MPs can say thank you in the best way possible by voting for changes in the law to give them the protection they deserve
Alex Norris MP
Member of Parliament, Nottingham North