Freedom from Fear

Sarah at Gorgie ScotmidLast week I met with local Usdaw members at Scotmid in Gorgie Road to help promote the union’s annual Freedom from Fear campaign.

The campaign seeks to bring together employers, police and politicians for action to tackle violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.  It also sends a clear message to staff that taking abuse is not part of their job description and encourages them to speak up and report incidents.

Research by Usdaw found that 6% of shopworkers have been victims of violence in the past year while over a third have been threatened and over 60% verbally abused. In light of these figures, the campaign is urging customers to show respect for shopworkers.

At the event I met two local Usdaw reps Karin and Susan who showed me the responses from members in a local survey which highlighted incidents where their members have experienced violence and abuse at work.

Cases where a shop worker was attacked with pepper spray and another nearly stabbed by a customer wielding a hypodermic needle stood out as particularly shocking examples.

A common concern was the small number of staff in shops leading to staff being vulnerable if there was an incident.  This is particularly the case at this time of year in the build up to Christmas where shops are full and queues are long.  However, many managers are saying that they don’t have the budget to take on more staff.

The retail trade is under constant pressure given the state of the economy and the increase in online sales.   But we need to make sure that staff safety isn’t left out of the equation.