Freedom from Fear

Last week I met with representatives of Usdaw, the shopworkers union,  at a campaign event in the Scottish Parliament to mark this year’s Respect for Shopworkers Week.

As part of the campaign, Usdaw is giving advice to shoppers on how to avoid stress in the run up to the busy Christmas and New Year period.  They are also highlighting the worrying number of shopworkers who have been subjected to physical and verbal abuse in the last year. 

Usdaw’s latest survey reveals that in the last 12 months, 6% of shopworkers had been subjected to violent attack, 37% had been threatened and a massive 70% had suffered verbal abuse.

Over the festive period – when shops are busy and queues are long – shopping can be a stressful experience and the number of incidents against shopworkers increases dramatically .  That’s why Usdaw are asking shoppers to show respect for shopworkers and to ‘Keep your cool at Christmas’.

Usdaw’s survey revealed that nearly half of all incidents of abuse occurred following requests for proof of age or refusing a sale of an age-restricted products.

Last year the Scottish Government passed a law requiring shopworkers to age identify anyone who looks under 25. Whilst I agree with that law, we have to provide shopworkers with the support they need to enforce it.

A big part of this is to publicise the ‘Think 25’ policy so that people know why they are being asked for ID.  If people know there is a likelihood that they will be asked to provide proof of age, they will be more likely to carry ID and won’t find themselves refused service. 

When shopworkers are doing their jobs they have a right to expect that they will be treated with respect. I want the Scottish Government to look again at what additional protections can be afforded to shopworkers, who are far too often the victims of violence, threats and abuse.

During the last term of Parliament, legislation brought forward by my colleague Hugh Henry would have created an additional penalty for those found guilty of assaulting workers and I remain bitterly disappointed that the Scottish Government opposed the fundamental principles of the Bill.  I will be urging them to look again at this issue.

As the festive period gets into full swing I hope that everyone gets their Christmas shopping done with the minimum of stress and I would ask that if they are fortunate enough to look under 25, that they will take it as a compliment, not an inconvenience, when they are asked for ID.