By Alex Norris, MP for Nottingham North
This week, for the second time, I will put before the House of Commons legislation to ensure shopworkers across the UK are afforded the protection they both need and deserve.
Abuse and violence against shopworkers are at levels never seen before. The British Retail Consortium estimate that more than 400 shopworkers are attacked every day and I know that Co-op have seen violent incidents in its store rise by close to 420% between 2017 and 2019, with the problem still rising in 2020.
I am shocked that in Co-op stores across the UK alone in the first sixty days of 2020, 100 Co-op colleagues were abused and 12 were physically attacked – with half of those attacks involving a weapon. One of these physical attacks took place in my constituency of Nottingham North in January. It’s a massive relief that no one was hurt and that the perpetrator has been jailed for three years.
However, while the problem gets worse, the police response gets less as they struggle with the loss of more than 20,000 frontline officers. Data that Co-op has gathered from a Freedom of Information request shows that even though only the most serious incidents in their stores are reported, the police do not even attend two out of three times.
This cannot go on and I believe new legislation is needed for two reasons.
Firstly, retail workers are given responsibilities to uphold the law on a range of products, which Parliament has determined can only be sold to people above a certain age. They are, therefore, performing a public service in the same way as others like, for example, emergency workers or HMRC officials. I believe that as a point of principle, in the same way as those workers are afforded additional protection in carrying out their public duties, so should shopworkers.
Secondly, there needs to be a reset in society and a very clear message sent that it is not part of the job for shopworkers to suffer abuse and violence. Parliament can establish a new expectation by legislating for what is acceptable. The police must then be given the resources to implement this new legislation.
My fellow Co-operative Party MPs support this new piece of legislation, and I hope others across the House will take the opportunity to do so too. It’s the least shopworkers deserve.
If you would like to show your support for the bill, you can do so by adding your name in support of the bill and then spreading the message on social media. It takes less than a minute, and will show the scale of the support for a bill to end violence against shopworkers. Please, add your name and spread the word.