This week I am taking part in events at local supermarkets to mark Respect for Shopworker Week 2013 which highlights to the public the problems of violence, threats and abuse that shopworkers may face.
These events are part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign run by USDAW, the shopworkers union, to tackle abuse directed at retail staff. Surveys show that on average every year, a third of shopworkers are threatened, half are victims of verbal abuse and one in 25 is the victim of a violent assault. These are worrying statistics, and we need to take this problem very seriously.
Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, for example, by preventing under-age purchases or by detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, and these situations can put them in real danger.
In parliament last month I voted to include a clause in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which would see stiffer sentences for offenders assaulting shopworkers and I was very disappointed to see Tory and LibDem MPs voting against it, which meant it did not go through.
We really need to address the problem of workers being assaulted and I am concerned that offenders who assault shopworkers are getting away with relatively light sentences. That sends out completely the wrong message
I will continue to campaign with USDAW for a change in the law so that people who assault shopworkers are properly punished, and this is a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.