Posted: Wed 19th Aug 2020

North Wales retail workers verbally abused and coughed at by customers claiming to have covid-19 during pandemic

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Aug 19th, 2020

Shop workers have today called for the law to protect them after suffering violence, threats and being coughed at by individuals claiming to have Covid-19, during the pandemic.

A survey undertaken by Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) found that of 4,928 responses from shop workers across the UK, found that that between 14 March and 17 April 2020: 62.28% were verbally abused, 29.07% were threatened, 4.01% assaulted

It also found that while incidents of violence, threats and abuse were already rising they doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jane from Mold told BBC Radio Wales that abuse started at the beginning of the pandemic when panic buying set in with shoppers scrambled to buy toilet rolls and pasta.

“From that point forward we’ve suffered lots of verbal abuse and threats with instances of violence against us just because we were trying to police the systems in place to ensure everybody got products from the store.

This continued when social distancing and queuing systems were introduced to limit the number of customers into the store, verbal abuse became the norm.

It was something that we began to expect, people were anxious and frustrated with the situation and the systems in place but it was something that we suffered on a daily basis.

I haven’t really suffered any violence personally but I’ve had lots of verbal abuse, intimidating behaviour and foul language with people getting into your face and complaining about the things that you’re trying to ask them to do just to keep colleagues and other customers safe.

You try and accept that people are anxious going into stores and you don’t know their personal situation but you yourself are anxious going into work you scared yourself of catching the virus and taking home to your families.

There were many days that I and my colleagues didn’t want to go to work because we knew what was going to be like, you literally just didn’t want to go there.”

Today retail trade union leader Paddy Lillis has today launched a parliamentary petition calling for legislation to protect shop workers from violence threats and abuse. In support of the petition, Welsh shop workers have been speaking out about their own experiences.

Comments from shop workers in north Wales include having customers claiming to have covid-19 and then coughing in their face after being asked to stand behind a marked line, being told to f**k off after asking for ID and being robbed at knife point.

Other incidents across Wales include customers becoming rude and aggressive when asked to follow the social distancing guidelines and customers grabbing a shop workers arm arm to verbally abuse them.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary said: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies of shop workers who deserve far more respect than they receive.

“Abuse should never be a part of the job and we are appalled that violence, threats and abuse have doubled during this national emergency.

“The safety of our members is absolutely paramount, but they tell us that some of the shopping public are resisting safety measures in stores and can become abusive when asked to queue, maintain social distancing or reminded to wear a face mask.

“Our message to the public is that there is no excuse for abusing shop workers, please treat our members with the respect they deserve.

“In light of the unacceptable increase in abuse of shop workers, there needs to be urgent action to help protect staff and we urge the Government not to dismiss our petition, but listen to the voices of shop workers and legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers.

“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”

The petition is lodged on the parliamentary website and calls on the Government to legislate to protect shop workers. It can be signed here.

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