MP Jonathan Reynolds swapped the Chamber of the House of Commons for the counter of a local supermarket today, to highlight a campaign designed to improve the treatment of shopworkers.
During the visit to Co-operative Food, in Hattersley, Mr Reynolds heard how shopworkers across the country can often be subjected to verbal and physical abuse.
According to the union Usdaw more than a million shopworkers have been assaulted, threatened or abused in the past year. And, they say, in the countdown to Christmas, instances of verbal abuse can increase dramatically.
The union is now urging shoppers to 'keep your cool at Christmas' as part of their ongoing Freedom from Fear campaign. And Jonathan Reynolds joined with Co-operative staff in Hattersley to show his support for the campaign and to help get the message across to s
hoppers. "No one should have to go in to work fearing that they may be verbally or physically abused," said Mr Reynolds. "And it is shameful that so many shopworkers have been abused, threatened or physically attacked in the past year.
"I am told that abuse of shopworkers increases in the countdown to Christmas. People will say that Christmas can be a stressful time, that shops are crowded and that tempers can fray - but that is no excuse.
"All shopworkers should be treated with respect, on every day throughout the year. I am saddened to hear that this is not the case. And I am proud to help Usdaw promote their Freedom from Fear campaign."
According to Usdaw's Freedom from Fear survey, six per cent of retail staff (equivalent to one in 16) have been subjected to a violent attack in the past year, most have suffered verbal abuse and more than one in three (37 per cent) have been threatened.
Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett said: "In the run-up to Christmas, customers are stressed, stores are really busy and sometimes things can boil over. That's why we are asking shoppers to show respect for shopworkers and to 'keep your cool at Christmas'.
"Nearly half of all incidents of abuse result from shopworkers asking customers for proof of age ID or refusing a sale of an age-restricted product, such as alcohol. We'll also be letting shoppers know that shopworkers asking for ID are only doing their job and protecting themselves from a fine, possible prosecution or disciplinary action from their employer."
At Co-operative Food staff are already given 'avoiding conflict' training, which shares behavioural techniques designed to minimise the likelihood of verbal and physical assault. And the company is among those backing Usdaw's campaign.
Peter Rowley, Co-operative Food's regional operations director Peter Rowley said: "We are proud to once again be working in partnership with Usdaw to promote the 'Freedom from Fear' campaign.
"Shop staff work hard, especially at Christmas, and people should always think twice before venting their frustrations and abusing a shopworker."
Published November 16, 2010