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Violence and abuse against shop workers soars

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Dr Simon Opher, Dursley GP and Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Stroud, has raised serious concerns about the rising level of violence and abuse suffered by frontline retail workers.

He said: “Attacks on people trying to do their job is deplorable, and I’m horrified by reports from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showing that retail workers are suffering 1,300 incidents every day – a 50% increase on last year.

“The physical and mental toll is intolerable, and workers often feel powerless to do anything about it. This, coupled with the financial cost of retail crime puts an even greater strain on an already beleaguered retail sector.”

Stonehouse resident, Karen Linforth, is a frontline worker in a major supermarket. “The effect on colleagues is intolerable. Most of our customers are lovely, but I’ve had to take colleagues off the checkouts in tears, and support staff suffering anxiety and depression as a result of what we have to put up with. The company does what they can to protect staff, but we have had people physically assaulted by customers which is obviously deeply upsetting for everyone.”

The BRC estimates the cost of losses to customer theft at £1.8 billion, plus an estimated £1.2 billion spent on detection and prevention measures such as CCTV.

Paddy Lillis, shopworkers’ union USDAW’s General Secretary said: “It is deeply disturbing that the level of incidents faced by retail workers is now higher than ever. Violence and abuse are not an acceptable part of the job and too many shopworkers suffer all too often. The growing retail crime epidemic must be tackled and it’s essential that the Government takes substantial action.”

Dr Opher added: “In opposition, Labour have sought to amend the Criminal Justice Bill to offer shopworkers better protection, and in Government, Labour would make retail crime and abuse of retail workers a specific crime with stiff penalties.”

Paddy Lillis continued: “The Government has repeatedly failed to act in the face of an epidemic in retail crime, rising theft from shops and assaults against retail workers.  We support Labour’s attempts to amend the Criminal Justice Bill so that the law is strengthened to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse.”

Labour have committed to support the retail sector by amending business rates for small retailers, bolstering protections for retail staff, and tackling antisocial behaviour with increased frontline police and community support officers.

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