7 November 2017

S5M-07924 Respect for Shopworkers Week

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07924, in the name of Daniel Johnson, on respect for shopworkers week, 13 to 19 November. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that Respect for Shopworkers Week, which is organised by USDAW’s Freedom From Fear campaign, runs from 13 to 19 November 2017; further notes that the week highlights the violence and abuse faced by shopworkers; recognises that the Retail Crime Survey, published in February 2017, concluded that “retail staff continue to suffer unacceptable levels of violence and abuse”, rising by 40% since 2015-16; is concerned that alcohol sales and the legal requirement of the Challenge 25 scheme can often act as a trigger-point for the outbreak of violence or abuse against workers, and considers that the abuse experienced by simply doing their job is of continued distress to shopworkers; celebrates the week’s vital role in raising awareness of the violence and abuse faced by shopworkers, and notes calls on both the Scottish and UK governments to act so that all public-facing workers can benefit from further protection from violence, abuse, and threats when at work.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thank Daniel Johnson for the opportunity to discuss this subject tonight. He has referred to the bill that he proposes to introduce, and a members’ debate is often a useful way of introducing the subject of a prospective member’s bill to Parliament and to ramp up discussion about it. I shall look with interest at the proposals that he seeks to introduce. I certainly support the principles that he has described, although I do not yet know whether I will ultimately be able to support the detailed implementation of his bill.

That is noises off; what is important and central to the debate is those who are on the front line of retail, who meet the public in all their diverse forms, from the old man—the regular—who goes to the convenience shop on the corner and builds a personal relationship with the shop staff at one end of the spectrum to those who cause serious incidents at the other.

This morning, as I travelled to Edinburgh by train, I read in the Metro a timely but unfortunate article about a shopworker who was attacked on Sunday in East Ayrshire and who is now, the paper reports, critically ill in hospital. That illustrates precisely the problems that Daniel Johnson asks us to engage with today, and which USDAW is making a more general point about on behalf of all retail workers. In the most stark way, that story illustrates the nature of the problem. It is too common and it has to be dealt with. We will assess whether legal protections of the nature of those that are to be proposed will help.

Respect for shopworkers week is an easy and proper thing to support. Without retail, we would be impoverished in many ways. It is important as one of our biggest industries, but it is also a personal industry that delivers to us. Too often, the police are called to incidents that happen in shops, particularly in relatively small shops. In larger shops, it is perhaps easier for those who are of ill intent to be observed, and they know it, so it is the little corner shop that is open at 10 o’clock at night or at 6 o’clock in the morning that is most commonly on the front line.

USDAW forms an important backstop to support people who have been subjected to unacceptable behaviour, and shopworkers deserve our support for what they do. It is not part of the job spec of someone who stands behind a counter that they should take whatever comes in their direction. They should have respect from all those who visit shops, and good citizens should look out for shopworkers and should be part of a society that protects them from those who do not show the right attitude. I certainly hope that the person who was attacked in East Ayrshire recovers and is able to resume her work, if she wishes to do so.

There are many parts of society where people face the public in all its multifarious forms. Shopworkers are important. On another occasion, we might think about others who have to engage with the public in sometimes difficult circumstances.

I am happy to support the motion.


Stewart Stevenson
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