Retail crime still a blight

Daniel Johnson MSP (left) at the launch of his retail crime bill campaign.

Call for action on Workers Act anniversary

RETAILERS, trade unions and politicians have called for more to be done to tackle retail crime, on the first anniversary of the Protection of Workers Act.

The Act, which offers retail staff additional protection under the law, hit its one year milestone on 24 August and there is some evidence it has had an effect.

Since the Protection of Workers Act became law, around three thousand charges have been brought forward.

However, Aleem Farooq, Scottish President of The Fed (formerly NFRN) said better awareness among the public must be the next step.

“One thing everybody is talking about is creating awareness with the general public, telling them that there is a law to support the shopworker.

“Now shopworkers are treated as first-line workers like ambulance workers or fire brigade workers.

“We need to create the awareness so people know that it’s not OK to go into a shop and be abusive to a worker or the person behind the counter.”

Shopworker trade union Usdaw marked last month’s anniversary with a campaign event at Tesco superstore in Leith, urging retail staff across Scotland to report incidents of retail crime.

Tracy Gilbert, Usdaw regional secretary for Scotland, said: “Scottish shopworkers deserve far more respect than they receive.

“Our surveying shows that nine in 10 are suffering abuse from customers, two-thirds were threatened and 12% assaulted. So it is extremely worrying that nearly two-thirds are not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.

Daniel Johnson MSP, who brought forward the Protection of Workers legislation as private members bill, said the new law has been a “positive step”, but added a change in attitudes towards retail workers is required.

“Unfortunately, some people see retail workers as ‘fair game’ when it comes to abuse: the Scottish Government must make good on their promise of a public awareness campaign of the legislation as quickly as possible.”

Increasing public awareness of the Act could become more time sensitive this winter, as inflation puts more households under pressure

Johnson noted that even though shopworkers were “lauded” during the pandemic, instances of violence, threats and abuse tripled during Covid lockdowns.

“We have to anticipate that greater pressure on people’s pockets will lead to greater pressure on retail workers. It is vital that we see action from all governments in the UK to ensure that police have the resources and that retailers are supported,” he said.