Posted: Mon 7th Mar 2022

First minister condemns “unacceptable” abuse of shop workers after “record levels” of harassment reported during pandemic

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Mar 7th, 2022

First Minister Mark Drakeford has condemned those who abuse shop workers after a new report found that 64 per cent of retail staff were threatened with violence in the last 12 months.

Earlier this week Wrexham.com reported that a study carried out by retail trade union Usdaw found that “record levels” of violence and abuse have been experienced by shop workers throughout the covid-19 pandemic.

It revealed that 9 out of 10 workers reported verbal abuse. 64 per cent received threats of violence and 12 per were physically assaulted during the year.

61 per cent said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference.

Throughout the pandemic shop workers faced verbal abuse over mask guidance and social distancing.

The survey of 3,500 people also found that shop workers were attacked and abused both by people who refused to wear face coverings and by others who thought that stores should be doing more to enforce the wearing of face coverings.

In terms of how shop workers could be supported more in their jobs 26 per cent said more management support, 26 per cent wanted to ban offenders and 18 per cent wanted security staff.

During a press conference on Friday the first minister was asked what protections will the Welsh Government put in place to protect retail workers from further abuse from customers when the remaining coronavirus restrictions are eased at the end of the month.

Mr Drakeford said it was “entirely unacceptable that anyone going about their ordinary day, earning a living should be abused by somebody else for any reason.”

He said: “In the worst days of a pandemic when we knew far less about it, when we had no protections from vaccines, amongst those groups of people who went to work everyday to make sure the rest of us could go on having food on the table were people in the retail sector.

“I very much pay tribute to the work that they have done on our behalf. Abuse is absolutely unacceptable.

“When I speak to Udsaw trade union that represents those workers and people who’ve been on the front line, they always emphasise that it is a small minority of people who behaving that way.

“Most people continue to do what is asked for them, to behave respectfully of other people and people who work in those settings

“That small minority, you go home at the end of the day and you remember them even when you are not thinking about all those other people who’ve done the right thing.

“The health and safety requirements will remain in law after the 28 March. We are removing the coronavirus specific requirements, but that doesn’t mean that obligations on employers to carry out a risk assessment in workplaces and to make sure that risks are properly mitigated, those will remain in the law as they were before coronavirus began.

“We will be working with our trade union colleagues and with employers who in Wales, who in my experience, want to do the right thing to make sure that where there are risks that still deal with them.

“It is a responsibility of managers of those premises, not the people on the frontline themselves, to take the lead in making sure that where there is entirely unacceptable behaviour that it is dealt with – and that people on the frontline are not expected simply to tolerate it or to absorb it as part of what it means to work in that setting.

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