Cleveland’s Acting Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Oldroyd has joined forces with those in the retail trade to support shop workers as they carry out their essential roles this Christmas.
The move comes after figures reveal that shop workers have suffered threats, abuse and violence as they have tried to apply Covid compliance measures.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that shop workers should experience such violence, intimidation and abuse and I would urge staff and their employers to report such incidents to the police.” said Mrs Oldroyd.
“Retail staff play a crucial role in serving our communities and as key workers they have put their own safety at risk to serve others, despite the pandemic. As the festive shopping season is upon us we should extend extra kindness and respect to shop workers who are working extremely hard.”
Mum-of-three Michelle Spurr, 52, from Stockton works for a major national retailer and has described how she is sworn at on a daily basis.
She has even had to break up a fight between four adult males as they argued over a place in a queue.
Michelle said: “We get people telling us “we haven’t got time for this” – and then the swearing starts.
“I don’t go to work to be abused but I just have to smile and take it daily because our companies want the customers.”
Other incidents during COVID restrictions have included:
• People being rude throughout the day when they are reminded to wear face coverings
• A colleague having a metal shopping basket thrown at her when she reminded a man to follow the shop’s one-way system.
The grandmother-of-five also fears for the health and safety of herself and fellow staff as shoppers fail to observe social distancing in their rush to bag Christmas goodies.
Michelle said: “I can’t tell you the number of times that customers have pushed past me, brushing my shoulder, and my colleagues have had customers reach over them when they have been filling shelves.
“I’d just like to ask customers to have a thought for other people and not be so selfish and single-minded.”
As footfall in stores increases in the lead up to Christmas, shoppers are being asked to respect staff working in retail after a rise in attacks and abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nationally the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has launched a campaign #KeepingChristmasKind to support shop workers and has produced a video featuring real life cases to highlight the problem. The video can be viewed hereWatch the Keeping Christmas Kind campaign video
In Cleveland the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has joined forces with the North East Retail Crime Partnership (NERCP) and retail union USDAW to remind shoppers about the long-term physical and psychological impact of abuse against shop workers.
Interim results from USDAW’s 2020 survey show that 85.49% of retails workers who responded to the survey have been verbally abused this year –56.87% experienced physical violence. More than three quarters of respondents believe incidents of work-related violence and abuse are ‘much worse’ or ‘worse’ than they were before the Covid-19 pandemic.Complete USDAW's Freedom from Fear survey
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from North East shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. Abuse should never be a part of the job and we are appalled that retail staff say abuse has been worse during this appalling national pandemic.”
The OPCC provides funding to the North East Retail Crime Partnership (NERCP) who have a team of dedicated crime prevention specialists to keep businesses and communities across the region safe.
Lee Steabler, NERCP Manager, said: “Being a voice for retail, supporting businesses and having personally worked in retail myself, I know first-hand some of the bad experiences retail staff go through – without also having to deal with the current global pandemic.
“I encourage the businesses I work with regularly to report abuse and threatening behaviour as this should not be tolerated, but unfortunately some staff accept it as part of the job of working within retail. No one should have to fear going into their place of work.
“By working in partnership and reporting such unacceptable behaviour we can and will make a difference.”