It is mostly verbal abuse but occasionally gets physical - and shop workers want the same protection as the police and healthcare workers.

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A campaign to get a Protection of Workers Bill through Parliament was highlighted by members of Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) at the Tesco superstore in Dereham yesterday.

Shop steward Ben Baldwin, who also works in the bakery department at the store, said in the run-up to Christmas there were more abusive incidents in store as shoppers’ stress levels rose.

“We want people to recognise we are human beings too,” he said. “People start getting angry because things are not on the shelf that they want or having to queue and staff are busier than ever.

“We are lucky in this store that 98 percent of customers are fantastic but there is about two percent who get abusive, shouting and swearing and making threats. If they were to assault a member of the police or health service it is treated as a very serious crime and they could be jailed and we want the same legal protection.”

Mr Baldwin’s wife Bridget also works in the store and said incidents were often alcohol-fuelled. “Some get very angry if you ask for identification but we need to protect ourselves too.”

They said one member of staff was hit last year by a man who came into the store, picked up a rolling pin and hit him on the back of the head.

“When you are open 24 hours it does mean you get people in here who have had too much to drink at night,” said Mr Baldwin. “I even had a customer swear at me because the bread slicer was not working and he complained to customer services. If someone complains about you it can lead to you being suspended but luckily my manager was on my side.”

He said the response to the Freedom from Fear campaign in store had been “great”.

3 comments

  • Few things put my back up faster than one of those signs reading our receptionists deserve respect or our staff deserve respect. Everyone deserves respect and showing respect can be by doing their job properly and putting the people they are assisting as patients or as customers first.Not talking on the phone while a customer waits, not talking to other staff, not being unhelpful. Respect is earned and in business the customer should come first.No one deserves to be on the receiving end of abuse but if shop floor workers are getting it in the neck then there is a manager somewhere who is not doing a job properly. It is no wonder that people get cross when they are asked to provide ID " if you look as if you are under 25" a full seven years over the legal limit to buy fags and alcohol. Silly campaigns like Freedom from fear are a NuLabour nonsense and offensive to the majority of people in this country who would curl up and crawl away rather than make a fuss. Bouquets for the young chaps at Game Norwich who should never need to ask for respect, smiling and helpful even when really busy.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

  • Daisy, as someone who works for one of the major supermarkets I understand why they do the think 25 and why they are pushing for "silly campaigns like this" . I have witnessed and been the victim of abuse from customers who weren't happy because we are sold out of something or we are refusing them alcohol as they are drunk.. The sooner this is stopped the better

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    Reaper99

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

  • and as for the Think 25 it's because when you look at teenagers now, a 16 year old can look 18 and i've seen some pass for nearer 20, when the stores AND colleagues face fines or legal problems (amongst other things) for selling to underage persons then the only way around it is something like Think 25

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    Reaper99

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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