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Abuse towards shop staff doubled during pandemic

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Appalled: Paddy Lillis

Appalled: Paddy Lillis

Appalled: Paddy Lillis

A parliamentary petition has been launched calling for legislation to protect shop workers in Northern Ireland from violence threats and abuse.

A survey by shopworkers' trade union Usdaw, conducted in support of the petition, saw Northern Irish shopworkers speaking out about their own experiences.

The survey found that while incidents of violence, threats and abuse were already rising, they have doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One shop worker said customers seemed to think they could take their frustration out on staff, adding: "Every shift during Covid-19 feels like the run up to Christmas in terms of how busy it has been.

"The sheer amount of so-called self-isolating customers ignoring government advice/rules to buy non-essential items appears to be a bit of a running joke," they added.

A second retailer spoke of being "verbally abused for refusing to take money out of a customer's mouth" while another said a customer threatened to punch them and any customers who were in his way while he walked around the store.

Usdaw General Secretary, Paddy Lillis said: "It is heartbreaking to hear these testimonies of shop workers who deserve far more respect than they receive.

"Abuse should never be a part of the job and we are appalled that violence, threats and abuse have doubled during this national emergency.

"The safety of our members is absolutely paramount, but they tell us that some of the shopping public are resisting safety measures in stores and can become abusive when asked to queue, maintain social distancing or reminded to wear a face mask.

"Our message to the public is that there is no excuse for abusing shopworkers, please treat our members with the respect they deserve

"In light of the unacceptable increase in abuse of shopworkers, there needs to be urgent action to help protect staff and we urge the Government not to dismiss our petition, but listen to the voices of shopworkers and legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers.

"Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law," Mr Lillis added.

The petition can be signed at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/328621

Belfast Telegraph