We launched our Safer colleagues, Safer communities campaign last year to do all we can to keep our colleagues and their communities safe. A key part of that campaign is talking to MPs and Government to ensure they understand why the issue of violence against shop workers must be taken seriously.

In November, the Offensive Weapons Bill was debated in the House of Commons. You may remember from David Hanson MP’s blog that he asked that the Bill be amended to include a clause to protect shop workers, by making it an offence to obstruct or threaten shop staff while doing their jobs.  Hundreds of us responded to David’s call for help and wrote to our MP asking them to support.

During the debate on the amendment a huge number of MPs mentioned Co-op and the work we were doing with USDAW.  We were the only retailer to receive such positive mentions which was as a result of the letters we all wrote and the 48 MP visits that took place to support USDAW’s Respect for Shopworkers week – so thank you again to all those store colleagues who hosted visits.

As a result of the debate, the Government Minister responsible for the issue – Victoria Atkins MP – invited USDAW, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), David Hanson MP and Co-op, who were the only business in the room, to a roundtable at the Home Office. I went to this meeting in December and shared stories from colleagues who have faced violence at work, explaining that this was unacceptable and Co-op were now officially campaigning to increase protection for our colleagues; it is not part of the job.

Government are getting more serious

A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from the Home Office outlining their response. The Home Office have definitely made steps in the right direction which we welcome. However, we still believe that legislation is needed to increase protection for our colleagues and we will continue to campaign for this.  There will be more opportunities for us to work with the Home Office in the coming months, the first of which was a meeting that I joined yesterday, chaired by Victoria Atkins. There was real energy in the room and it was clear from the Minister’s grasp of the issues that Government are getting more serious. Once again I laid out the reality for our colleagues today and the impact such incidents have on not just those who are attacked, but their colleagues who witness it or hear about it; as I said to the Minister, this is about our colleagues and their safety, nothing else.

Whilst I was at this meeting Paul Gerrard, our Campaigns and Public Affairs Director, was at a meeting hosted by the British Retail Consortium with key MPs and other organisations who want to see a change in legislation. Last week, like me, Paul made the case for a change in legislation by recounting the reality of violence in our stores through the stories of colleagues.

I get a real sense that as a result of what we started last year, the issue of violence against shop workers has changed the volume of the debate for those in Parliament, in Government and in the Police. There is much more to do and we have planned a whole range of action on the issue.

So watch this space!

Chris Whitfield
Chief Operating Officer, Retail

Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. I live in the town of Kelso, both coop stores have been held up by knifepoint within the space of 3 to 4 months, security guard only booked for one week initially, both stores had to request extra weeks, colleagues are still traumatised by this, yet no follow up as to how they are

    • Hi Enwood, I’ve picked up with your Area Manager and will be picking up with your Store Manager to see what’s happened here. As always, Lifeworks is here to help you whenever you need it. You can contact them on 0800 069 8854.

  2. I agree that we need more hours for shop floor staff. I have been affected by threatening behaviour within store both with my colleague and my partner who is a manager in another. The store is a one-on-one store and even in a larger like I’m in now, the way hours are being taken, I feel more and more vulnerable as closing time approaches. A lot of stores around the country have been affected by robberies of various kinds and I feel we need more support when our business and staff are at risk.

  3. Having had a really bad experience in the past regarding chasing after a shoplifter i welcome this but also think working on a 1 on 1 basis is not an ideal situation, safety in numbers should be paramount within any company.

  4. Not enough hours so less staff on shop floor evening shifts sometimes 4 staff it’s not nice to feel in safe at work.

  5. So glad to see some movement here, one of my colleagues was recently in a situation, fortunately nothing bad happened but it shook everyone up. I am in a store that has a huge amount of theft, we are trying our very best to report every incident, which I hope will get us a guard going forward. Glad it’s so much easier to report to co-op now. Looking forward to what happens next

  6. Great to hear this but we can help ourselves as a buisness by reinvesting hours in the shop floor to stop making the coop a really simple target for theft. So often we are left exposed and vunrable in stores.

  7. Chris

    as you know I spent 20 years in Government before joining the Co-op and I know that what is compelling and convincing for Ministers and those that advise them is hearing from experts with operational experience because this is something they don’t, understandably, have.

    I know that your experience, your passion and your ability to articulate that clearly for Ministers has been influential for them…..which means we stand a better chance of Government taking action to support al we do and help keep our colleagues safe.

    Best wishes


  8. Great to see that we are leading the way in this with colleague safety at the core of everything we do

  9. How about putting hours on the shopfloor?

    Its take take take…… soon it will be one person in the store

  10. Brilliant to hear Chris. The perfect example of getting to the deeper cause of our issues and supporting our colleagues in the best way possible. A real chance of long term, systemic change from these actions

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