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Pregnant worker among those attacked as violence in shops doubles



Violence towards shop workers in Scotland has more than doubled in the last year, a survey has found.

Retail trade union USDAW asked staff across Scotland and found nearly one-in-five (18%) had been assaulted by a customer in the last 12 months – a rise from 8% in 2022/2023.

The survey of 5,500 of store employees revealed that levels of violence, threats and abuse had all increased in comparison with pre-pandemic figures.

One worker in claimed they faced threats of “being stabbed”, while another in told how a customer complimented their hair before pulling it.

Voices from the frontline

The survey found 70% of staff have experienced verbal abuse, while nearly half (46%) had been threatened by a customer.

The union said retail staff facing violence is “not acceptable” and has called for more protection for employees.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from Scottish shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by retail staff.

“No-one should feel afraid to go to work, but our evidence shows that too many retail workers are. It is shocking that nearly a fifth of our members working in retail are being assaulted for simply doing their job and serving the community. They provide an essential service and deserve our respect and the protection of the law.

“Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on. Our latest survey results show that seven in ten retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for 61% of these incidents.

“Violence and abuse is not an acceptable part of the job and much more needs to be done to protect shopworkers. We were delighted to have won the campaign for a protection of workers law in the Scottish Parliament, but that is the beginning not the end.

“We have to ensure that the legislation is central to tackle a growing wave of retail crime and Usdaw looks forward to working with Police Scotland to make that happen.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the significant disruption and harm retail crime causes and condemns any violence against retail workers and would urge victims and to report crimes to Police Scotland.

“The Scottish Government supported the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Act 2021 and has subsequently worked with partners including the Scottish Grocers Federation and Crimestoppers to run an awareness campaign about the impact of abuse, threats and violence on retail staff, and to highlight the crucial role they play in our communities.

“In addition, we continue to support Police Scotland and key stakeholders in the development of a collaborative approach to the prevention, deterrence and enforcement of a range of crimes including shoplifting.”

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