In 2020, many of us lost one of the most precious days in the year: Christmas. Having our family gatherings taken away at the last minute was tough for lots of us and I know that many will want to make this Christmas extra special to make up for the lost year. No matter how you celebrate this Christmas holiday I hope you and yours have a peaceful time.
As our minds turn to Christmas, we will no doubt be thinking about that funny little present we can get our colleague in the secret Santa, the heartfelt gift for our partner or that must-have toy our niece has been after. It’s a stressful time and the manic rush in the shops adds to pressure of Christmas. I know from personal experience that you always need to find that one extra thing, be it a gift or those pesky pigs in blankets, at the last minute. This stress can get to us, but we’ve got to remember to be kind to those working in retail.
The fantastic trade union Usdaw, who represent shopworkers and distributive workers, run a fantastic campaign at this time of year called “Freedom from Fear”. The campaign highlights the shocking abuse that retail workers face on a daily basis and how it only gets worse at Christmas when sometimes things can get too much for people.
Sadly, last year 60% of retail employees reported cases of abuse and threats and a shocking 9% were assaulted. These are sobering statistics. Any abuse against someone doing their job is unacceptable.
I know from my work with constituents in Bristol South that there is a demand for a change in the law to protect retail staff from this abuse. It’s utterly wrong that despite shopworkers being responsible for implementing our age restriction laws – and failure to do so can result in a fine – they have no protection in law themselves from abuse and violence. This should be an aggravated offence with serious fines attached. Those who implement our laws should be protected by them.
The Government has blocked all attempts by Labour MPs in securing this change. The closest we got to change was when the Home Office implemented a consultation on violence and abuse against shopworkers, but they took over a year to report back on the findings and then stated they were against reform. This flies in the face of pragmatic solutions to criminal behaviour.
Rest assured; I will continue to stand up for retail workers in Parliament.