Shop staff need better protection, says MP

CAMPAIGN: MP Sharon Hodgson with John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw.
CAMPAIGN: MP Sharon Hodgson with John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw.
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A WEARSIDE MP has backed calls for better protection for shopworkers.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson is supporting retail union Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff.

The move came as city magistrates yesterday dealt with two cases of shop staff attacked by angry customers.

Attending a campaign event in the House of Commons, Mrs Hodgson pledged to support a Protection of Workers Bill that would introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker serving the public, extending existing legal protection for police officers, immigration officers and Scottish emergency service workers.

“There is no excuse whatsoever for threatening and violent behaviour towards shopworkers just for doing their jobs,” she said.

“We need stiffer sentences for those who cross the line, and I’ve been very disappointed to see Tory and Lib Dem MPs block them on five separate occasions in recent years.

“Making the assault of a worker serving the public an offence in its own right would simplify sentencing. Under existing guidelines, assaulting a worker can be an aggravating factor, but it’s not always taken into account when it comes to prosecutions and sentencing.

“The law needs to send a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable, and I’ll continue to campaign with Usdaw for proper punishments.”

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “We are grateful to Sharon for supporting our campaign to keep our members safe at work.

“Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-age purchases of products like knives, tobacco or alcohol, or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, they can be put in real danger.

“Parliament has given shopworkers the duty to enforce the law, so Parliament should provide the necessary protection.

“I have been shocked by the leniency of some of the sentences for assault of workers. Over 300 shopworkers are assaulted every day and it is time to say enough is enough.

“The Government must act to address this issue and act quickly.”