By Claire Saunders, Store Manager – Gidea Park, Essex

Hi everyone!

If you’re in a store and reading this right now, I know it’s been a pretty difficult few months working through this crisis. I’ve felt incredibly anxious, for myself, my team, my family’s health, but I knew I had to play my part in keeping the nation fed. Co-op’s been great at getting us lots of hand sanitiser and the protective screens have also helped my team and I feel a little safer.

We’re a busy shop, so we’re having to deal with queues and enforcing social distancing in store. Luckily most of our customers have been great and it’s made us feel a lot closer as a community. However, it’s a difficult shop too, and unfortunately some customers have made things even worse for my team.

We’ve faced verbal abuse, physical abuse and not so long ago a shoplifter threatened to spit in my face and give me Coronavirus.

I’m a huge supporter of our Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign and it’s great to see our Co-op tackling the issues we see every day. Me being who I am, I just knew I had to get involved. That’s why I reached out to a few of my colleagues and over 100 of them have come back with similar stories to mine. Now I’m asking you to do the same.


Help me fight for better protection for shop workers next Friday

Next Sunday, 28 June, it will have been a year since we all shared our stories with the government as part of their call for evidence campaign on violence and abuse against shop workers. The point of this was to assess the evidence put to them and come up with recommendations on how they might tackle some of the key issues.

However, a whole year has passed, and we still have not had a response. Even despite us sending those 5,000 letters to our MPs at the start of the year. That’s why I’m asking all colleagues to share their stories again, but this time we’re being brave and going public.

You can look at the video I’ve done here as an example. Simply tell us your name, where you work, an example of verbal or physical abuse you’ve suffered recently and end it with ‘it’s not part of the job’. I’ve also included my support for Alex Norris MP bill which you can read about here . Then next Friday (26 June) pop this onto your social pages, tagging in your local MP if you can and use the hashtag #safercolleaguessafercommunities. Simple!

Here’s an example…

1 year since  @ukhomeoffice call for evidence closed. 2000+ assaults on  @CoopColleagues  & still no response.  #itsnotpartofthejob  and  @coopukcampaigns  supports  @alexnorrisNN  assaults on retail workers bill @ (INSERT MP NAME) will you support?  #safercolleaguessafercommunities

A reminder of the campaign

Here’s a quick reminder of what the Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign is all about.

It’s split into three elements:

  1. Operational action
  2. Campaigning action
  3. Community action

Over the last three years we’ve invested £70m in security, crime prevention and colleague safety measures and will be investing the same amount over the next three years too. In my shop we’ve got iCCTV which is great, our cameras link up to a remote monitoring station. They can gather lots of data on repeat offenders and help with convictions, as well as helping us in the moment too by talking directly to customers in the shop. Co-op are also just about to roll out body cameras and personal safety devices to over 500 stores who need them most, which is another great investment. More to come I’m sure!

Campaigning is all about us working with the government and other industry bodies to lobby for change in policies and legislation. I’m an USDAW rep too, and I’ve been representing you and other retail workers fighting for greater protection in the law. I’ve recently been on BBC breakfast and I’ve joined calls with Sir Keir Starmer MP talking about my experiences. The power is in our colleague voice, so being part of things like this all make a difference. There’s a team of people at Co-op whose job is to make good relationships with MPs and lobby for change. You’ll have seen in my video that I’ve asked my MP to support a Parliamentary Bill by Alex Norris MP.  This Bill will increase protection against shopworker violence so it’s so important that we get behind this, it’s due to be debated in Parliament later in the year so we’ll get behind this at the right moment, but mention it in your video if you want now and ask your MP to support it, as loads of our colleagues have.

And last but most certainly not least is community action. Tackling crime at its root. We’ve already given over £5.6m to over 2,000causes across the UK who are tackling the causes of crime. We’ve sponsored programmes with the Damilola Taylor Trust, raised the profile and supported donations to Foodshare a charity supporting food poverty and partnered with Steel Warriors who focus on taking knives off the streets.

It’s all worth fighting for as facing violence and verbal abuse at work is not part of our job. I know the Co-op is doing all it can to protect me as much as possible, but we can’t go it alone. Use your voice and join me in saying enough is enough and violence and abuse at work is #notpartofthejob!

Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. […] led to 5,000 MPs across the country receiving letters from us calling for change and our recent colleague activation on social media. Moreover, this isn’t about noise, it’s about making a difference and the […]

  2. I work in Funeralcare and in this part of the business we don’t really seem to have the same problems are yourselves. But it is disgusting behaviour that people think it is acceptable to do this , spitting in someone’s face, it’s just disgusting . I hope you have the powers to make sure these people don’t get back in to your stores, although I’d imagine that might also be a problem.
    Carry on fighting, hope some time it will be dealt with

  3. It’s appalling that no response has been received and it really saddens me that abuse is rising at such a challenging time for everyone. I’d urge all colleagues reading this to share it with your wider teams to support the campaign.

  4. I was really shocked to hear what you have gone through Claire and that other colleagues will have suffered the same abuse. It’s truly awful and we really do need to do something about it. Your story has prompted me to write to my MP (again) to support the Bill which is needed now more than ever.

  5. Claire – thank you for this article, and for sharing your experiences. Right behind you with support for this.

  6. Spot on Claire – you’re right to speak up on this and speak out to the wider world. Will be supporting you on this important issue.

  7. Great work, I hope we can make a difference. I work in Funeral care in North Shields and have never experienced any abuse in this field, however my wife works at a large Tesco store and has been affected by this on several occasions over the past few months. It seems to me that certain members of society are so wrapped up in their own lives that they don’t care about others. We’re all doing our best at this time and this behaviour is totally unacceptable, it angers me and upsets me to see my wife upset and hear about the things she has had to put up with.

  8. Angie from Bridgend co op I totally agree with you it’s not my job to take abuse off any one We should not have to be swore at threatened and intimidated then go home crying just to make a living we all need to get with you on this and make it law great work Claire

  9. Thanks for sharing Claire, and thanks to you and all the key workers over these past few months. I will be sure to post on social media next Friday to my local MP!

  10. 100 per cent behind you Claire, I work as a CTM for the Co-op in Dereham Norfolk and am also a Union Rep for Usdaw.
    This Law needs an urgent address and needs to be passed into law as soon as possible.
    It is not acceptable for all shop workers to suffer this.

  11. Claire – you are absolutely right and I can only be thankful that MP’s like Alex Norris are holding the government to account on this. I applaud your rallying call and I will certainly be supporting you too.

  12. Claire – you are absolutely right and I can only be thankful that MP’s like Alex Norris are holding the government to account on this. I applaud your rallying call and I will certainly be supporting you too.

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