Posted: Sun 17th Mar 2024

Increase in violence and abuse against retail workers in North Wales

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Retail workers across north Wales are facing increasing levels of intimidation, sexual harassment and threats, a new survey has revealed.

Retail trade union Usdaw has revealed the shocking statistics from its annual survey of over 5,500 retail staff showing.

The figures show that 18 per cent of shop workers in Wales suffered a violent attack last year, compared to eight per cent in 2022.

The increase in assaults comes during what the trade union describes as an “epidemic of retail crime.”

Usdaw’s survey shows that levels of violence, threats and abuse all increased compared to pre-pandemic figures.

In the last twelve months (pre-pandemic levels in brackets, from the 2019 survey):

  • 70 per cent (68 per cent) have experienced verbal abuse.
  • 46 per cent (43 per cent) were threatened by a customer.
  • 18 per cent (five per cent) were assaulted.

These findings follow similar trends to recent reports from British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores.

Both retail trade associations found significant increases in violence and abuse against shop workers alongside much higher levels of shoplifting, which is costing the industry £3 billion in lost stock and security measures.

Shop workers from north Wales have shared their experiences in retail, with one person stating that they were threatened after asking a customer for their ID.

Another staff member had money thrown at them whilst another said they experience sexual harassment and abuse over the ‘Think 25’ policy.

One worker said that “one guy comes in on a Thursday and tries to intimidate you and is horrible to the staff.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary said it was “heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from Welsh shop workers 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,” said Paddy.

“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 7 in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence.

“Theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for 61 per cent of these incidents.

“Violence and abuse is not an acceptable part of the job and much more needs to be done to protect shop workers.

“The UK Government has repeatedly failed to act in the face of an epidemic of retail crime, rising theft from shops and assaults against retail workers. It is disappointing that they have no measures in their legislative programme to tackle this issue.

“We support Labour’s attempts to amend the Government’s Criminal Justice Bill, so that the law is strengthened to protect shop workers from violence, threats and abuse.

“A protection of shop workers law is also supported by many retailers. It already exists in Scotland and has secured over 500 convictions.

“We also need more neighbourhood police with patrols in town centres, respect orders to ban repeat offenders and an end to the £200 threshold for investigating and prosecuting shop theft.

“Most of all, we ask the public to support our campaign by respecting shop workers.”

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