Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomePolitics'Retail workers need protection. Labour is committed to delivering it.' - LabourList

'Retail workers need protection. Labour is committed to delivering it.' – LabourList


I’ll be completely honest with you: I had hoped the fight to give retail workers the dignity and safety they deserve was won. Last month, the Co-operative Party, working alongside the Labour Party and USDAW, forced the Conservative government to include protections for our retail workers within the Criminal Justice Bill.

This resulted from years of campaigning by the trade union and co-operative societies. Tens of thousands of individuals joined us to push for change. When the government finally listened, we warned that there must be no more delay. But less than a month later, the Conservatives abandoned the policy in pursuit of a general election.

Retail crime is a huge and growing problem

Every day that passes without action is a day that shopworkers are abused and assaulted. Right now, there are 45,000 incidents of retail crime every single day in this country. A staggering 7 in 10 retail workers have been abused in the last 12 months. It is only getting worse.

According to research by USDAW, we’ve seen a 38% increase in the incidents of violence towards retail workers. In just the past year, the most serious cases of abuse including racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assaults and threats with weapons against shopworkers rose 50%.

It should shame us that our friends and family who work in retail are having to deal with this escalating abuse while they service our communities. Let’s be frank: it wasn’t long ago our frontline workers were applauded – now we can’t even offer them the basic decency of safety.

In 70% of cases, the police do not show up

Yet the most depressing part is not just that assaults is happening in the first place: it’s that when reported to the police, they don’t even show up. In almost 70% of the cases that Co-op reported, the police didn’t turn up. The system is so underfunded and under-resourced that it can’t even protect our frontline workers.

No one should be afraid to go to work. That is why we need urgent change to create safer high streets for workers and shoppers. Working alongside the Labour Party, change is exactly what we would deliver.

Labour has already pledged that they will do what the government has failed to do and introduce a standalone offence of assaulting a retail worker. This will give the police the tools to tackle this crime head-on, ensure vital statistics are being gathered and send a signal that those who assault frontline workers will be dealt with.

No worker should face being the victim of violent crime

A fundamental part of Labour’s plan will be to put more neighbourhood police on the streets, protecting our communities and our workers. That means that with this new offence and the increase in street policing, we can ensure that the police always show up when a crime has been reported. No worker should have to face being a victim of a violent crime alone.

We cannot stop there. Right now, all shoplifting cases must meet a £200 threshold before they can be investigated by the police. Organised criminal gangs know that they can steal from stores without fear of intervention, and this has led to skyrocketing levels of crime in stores.

£200 shoplifting threshold worsening threat

Make no mistake: this rule is a shoplifter’s charter, and one that puts shopworkers in harm’s way – as shoplifting is often a key flashpoint for abuse and assaults. By removing this threshold, we can tackle making our stores safer and break up the organised criminal gangs abusing our shopworkers.

We have a choice on 4 th July. We can create safer high streets for both shoppers and shopworkers, and end this epidemic of violence, threats, and abuse. We can bring in a government that will keep their promises to shopworkers. We can build a country that treats its frontline workers with respect and gives them the protection they deserve. All we need to do is vote for it.

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