Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners including trade unionists and co-operative activists calling on the Government to strengthen legislation for shopworkers. The Co-operative Party have estimated that every day, more than 400 retail workers in the UK are attacked – just for doing their jobs. Bell Green Retail Park is in Bellingham Ward.

Nobody should face violence at work, and we have a special responsibility to protect those responsible for upholding the law. That’s why the Co-operative Party, the Co-operative Group and independent societies around the country, USDAW and more are backing a change to the law to secure stronger protections for shopworkers and tougher penalties against those who assault or threaten them.

Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, USDAW said: “Abuse is not, and never should be, part of the job. It is completely unacceptable that our members experience this as part of their work. That’s why Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign and the drive to put in place stronger protections for retail workers.”

Full letter to Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor is below:

Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister speaks out

Dear Robert Buckland MP,

I am writing as a Labour & Co-operative Councillor with a large retail centre in my ward. Throughout this pandemic, retail workers have been on the front line, providing an essential service to the public. They are key workers.

From the very beginning of this crisis, they have worked hard to keep shelves stocked and shops open to ensure that people have access to the food and essentials they need. On top of this, it has been retail workers enforcing vital safety guidelines, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, which have been pivotal in keeping us safe.

Despite this tremendous effort, incidents of violence against shopworkers have doubled since the start of the pandemic.

As you know, this isn’t a new issue – shopworkers have always been providing a service to the public by enforcing laws around age restricted items like knives and acid, which can often be a flashpoint for violence, threats and abuse. While we ask shopworkers to enforce the law every day, the law currently does not do enough to protect them.

Usdaw the shop workers trade union says: “Nobody should go to work in fear, but that’s the reality for many retail and delivery workers. Violence and abuse has doubled during the current crisis. It’s never acceptable at any time, and that’s why we are calling for better legal protection, urgently. We need a new law that makes it a specific offence to assault public facing workers, with a sentence that fits the crime. The Government needs to show that it takes retail workers’ safety seriously.”

That is why I am asking that when the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill comes back to Parliament for Report Stage on Monday 5th July, you vote in support of amendments that will give retail workers the protection they deserve.

Already, this issue has been recognised in Scotland, where violence against retail workers is now a specific offence under the Protection of Workers bill passed earlier this year. Calls for a specific offence to be created in Westminster were supported by the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on violence and abuse towards retail workers, published on Tuesday 29th June. These calls have widespread support across bodies in the retail sector, trade unions, and retailers and retail workers themselves.

Parliament creates the laws that shopworkers are asked to uphold. Please take this opportunity to give these essential workers the protection they deserve in return by supporting these necessary amendments.

Cllr Alan Hall

Freedom From Fear

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