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Shopworkers celebrate Freedom from Fear Campaign in Heart Unions Week

Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is celebrating achievements for members during Heart Unions Week, 14 to 20 February 2022, an annual event organised by the TUC,

After two decades of the Freedom from Fear campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, Usdaw secured legislative success in the Scottish Parliament and Westminster to protect retail workers.

This followed extensive campaigning by Usdaw reps and members, including achieving over 100,000 petition signatures.

Scottish Labour’s Daniel Johnson MSP successfully steered through his private members bill and earned unanimous support. Labour’s frontbench, with cross-party support, pushed the Government, after years of resistance, to toughen sentencing for those who assault workers.

Whist in Westminster, an amendment was secured to the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill for sentencing to take account of where the person attacked was providing services, goods or facilities to the public

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary said: 

“Violence, threats and abuse have long been a major issue for shopworkers, which is why Usdaw launched the Freedom from Fear Campaign in 2003. Shockingly, incidents during the pandemic became much worse, with our survey finding they had doubled at the beginning of the first lockdown. So Government action was long overdue.”

The campaign included Usdaw health and safety reps risk assessing workplaces and negotiating improvements with local management. At a national level, the union worked with retail employers to improve company policies and jointly campaign for Government action. A coalition across the retail sector was built, with the support of the Co-op, British Retail Consortium, Association of Convenience Stores and over 100 major retailers. These combined efforts proved to be an influential force that persuaded Ministers to support Usdaw’s campaign.

The union are worried that nearly half of shopworkers are not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference, with 7% of those who had been assaulted not reporting the incident., so their campaign priorities for this year are to continue monitoring the levels of abuse their members experience by encouraging them to report incidents. This will also help them to examine how effective the new legislation is.

Photo: Usdaw