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!
Chief Operating Officer, Retail