By Jo Whitfield, Food CEO

We’re kicking off 2019’s Respect for Shopworkers Week here in London, where I’m joining USDAW’s Paddy Lillis and the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, sharing what we’ve been up to over the last year as part of the Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign and talking all things colleague safety.

Respect for Shopworkers Week is all about raising awareness with the public that violence, threats and abuse against workers is unacceptable. It’s about giving shop workers the confidence to speak out and report abuse, because it really shouldn’t be part of the job.

But it’s not just a week for us. Day in, day out, our colleagues are subject to verbal abuse, violence and threats to their safety. This year through the Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign we’ve invested in new equipment like our industry leading intelligent CCTV solutions, trialled new thinking such as body cams and SMART water fog cannons and invested in training for all frontline colleagues. We’ve published academic research that shows the impact of crime on our colleagues’ mental and physical health, shared our findings with the Government and other industry bodies and took part in the Home Office’s call for evidence on abuse and violence towards shop workers.

2019 highlights

  • Over 600 colleagues shared their stories with the Home Office for their call for evidence campaign, you can watch some of their stories here
  • We partnered with Dr Emmeline Taylor to publish academic research that looked at how crime impacts shop workers and the root causes of violent crime
  • We raised money for the Damilola Taylor trust and continue to work with local causes throughout the country on tackling the root causes of crime
  • We’ve put our industry leading intelligent CCTV solution in 400 more shops
  • Every single colleague in our shops had the opportunity to go through our new conflict avoidance training, developed toolkits for our Area Managers and our customer services team have been re-trained to make sure they support store colleagues when faced with abuse
  • We put new customer facing POS into all shops that says we don’t accept violent and harassment in our shops

In light of what’s happening politically, my fear is that those hoping to form the next Government won’t take this matter seriously and that’s why I’ve decided to write this open letter.

Please show your support on social media by sharing your thoughts and pictures using #Respect19 and #ItsWhatWeDo. And, if you’re a Co-op colleague you can head to the new social hub ( for materials for you to share on social media.

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. Its not just when the store is open. If you are unlucky enough to be a key holder for your store, then the old fashioned systems dictate that you need to come out for an alarm callout at any time during the night. Policy states that you cannot enter the store on your own, but with an alarm callout trying to find another colleague during unsociable hrs is impossible, so we are forced to enter the store alone, afraid and not knowing what we will find. Surely there has to be a better way. Most of our callouts are for our fridges, which shouldn’t really be connected to the security system, but its still frightening coming in on your own.

  2. I was in 2 armed robbery last year 1 came in with a knife and ask me 2 open the till the 2nd one was 3 man that came in with axe and hammer got me told us to open the safe I was so frightened

  3. I think we need security day and night rather than just night time – although security guards are supposed to protect us sometimes line to try and take advantage instead 😔😔😔

  4. Be ideal to see some of this investment going back in stores staffing levels. Such an easy target when there can only be 2 members of staff in store at a given time. Easy pickings for a would be criminal. All this investment and technology is a great addition but as a company we are neglecting the sales floor and leaving our staff wide open.

  5. I work in co op in histon and have been verbally and physically abused in the six years I have been there it’s not right that ppl think verbal a use and violence is exceptable we are only doing our jobs I’ve been thrown into office while a colleague was forced to open the safe at knife point we need more protection at work and a better response from police and management it’s ridiculous that we have to live with the fact that this is an everyday occurance

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