In her latest Post column, Garscadden/Scotstounhill Councillor Eva Murray shares her thoughts on shopworker abuse...

This week marks National Respect for Shopworkers Week – seven days of action which aim to raise awareness of the verbal and physical abuse faced by many who work in our local shops, sometimes daily.

The campaign is led by the Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) trade union and, this year, we know it is more important than ever, with retail crime on the rise.

Since August 2021, there have been almost 8,000 reported cases of shopworker abuse or assault in Scotland.

The date mentioned is important because that is when my Scottish Labour and Co-operative colleague Daniel Johnson MSP introduced the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act – the Bill aimed at tackling the abuse our shopworkers face once and for all.

Unfortunately, it seems there is more work to be done, with reports of abuse only rising.

Nobody should go to work and be abused. We know the impact this is having on workers’ mental health and their ability to do their job but, sadly, we have seen this type of behaviour become normalised and 'part of the job.'

A recent survey by Usdaw highlighted that more than 88% of its members had experienced verbal abuse from a customer in the past year and 15% had experienced physical violence at the hands of a customer.

In addition, 39% had been sexually harassed in the last five years.

Much of this abuse can stem from the wider issue of retail crime, with latest recorded crime figures showing there has been a 21% increase in shoplifting.

We know the majority of this comes from repeat and prolific offenders as part of criminal gangs.

What is most worrying is that, even when a crime is reported or the police are called, they may be unable to attend immediately or even find those criminals following the incident to convict them.

Often, this is due to stretched resources.

It is just another example of what cuts to policing mean to local communities.

This can’t go on. We must do better for our shopworkers. They deserve to have protections in place to ensure their safety and they need the confidence to know that, if there is an incident, it will be acted upon promptly and taken seriously.

That is why I was really pleased to see Daniel asking for a meeting with the new Chief Constable of Police Scotland to discuss how to better support retailers and businesses to tackle retail crime.

As we enter the Christmas period, where we can all become that little bit more stressed whilst out shopping, please remember that abuse is not part of the job.