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Call for action as shop workers subjected to torrent of abuse during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 11:54 26 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:54 26 June 2020

Central England Co-op is concerned at a huge rise in abuse from customers during lockdown  Picture: ALEX CANTRILL-JONES

Central England Co-op is concerned at a huge rise in abuse from customers during lockdown Picture: ALEX CANTRILL-JONES

Central England Co-op

A regional retailer is calling for government action as staff members are subjected to appalling levels of abuse from customers during lockdown.

In one incident, a customer in a Norfolk Central England Co-op punched a protective plastic screen because restrictions had been placed on lottery ticket purchases.

During another confrontation, a customer claiming to have coronavirus coughed in the face of a Suffolk store manager.

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Co-op staff at a Norfolk shop were spat at while marshalling social distancing queues because of the length of time it was taking to get inside.

And a number of shop workers in Suffolk and Norfolk have been verbally abused - and even threatened physically – because stores ran out of products. Customers claiming to have coronavirus threatened to cough or spit in their direction.

Central England Co-op said it would not reveal the exact locations of the incidents in order to protect its workers.

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The retailer is calling on government to introduce new legislation to better protect key workers in its stores following a marked rise in incidents during the coronavirus crisis.

The retailer, which has more than 260 stores across 16 counties, is joining forces with co-ops across the UK to plead for better protect for its workers in the face of a continued spike in “unacceptable” threats of verbal and physical abuse.

New figures have seen assaults jump by 100%, threats and intimidation by 25% and verbal abuse by 175% since the start of the year, the retail chain said. And since lockdown began, there have been more than 100 incidents where people used coronavirus as a threat.

Central England Co-op boss Debbie Robinson said: “We continue to see rise upon rise of incidents where our colleagues are verbally threatened or even worse physically abused just for doing the job – something that has only risen during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Today we tell people this is not acceptable, and we will not tolerate any kind of abuse to our colleagues.”

The retailer is highlighting MP Alex Norris’ Assault on Shop Workers Bill which has seen its second reading in parliament postponed. It states that because shop workers have responsibilities to uphold the law on age restricted products, they should be given greater protection in carrying out those public duties.

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