Co-op demands protection for staff after threats of being coughed upon

Debbie Robinson, chief executive of Central England Co-op. Picture: Central England Co-operative

Debbie Robinson, chief executive of Central England Co-op. Picture: Central England Co-operative - Credit: Central England Co-operative

A major supermarket has demanded that the Government do more to protect staff in shops after a rise in violent incidents, some including the use of weapons such as knives, axes and syringes.

New figures show that, since the start of 2020, the number of assaults on shop staff has doubled, threats and intimidation has gone up by a quarter and verbal abuse has risen by 175pc.

Since lockdown was introduced in March, there have been more than 100 incidents related directly to people using Covid-19 as a threat towards supermarket workers.

Multiple threats have been made by customers to cough on staff and “give them coronavirus”, usually sparked by long waiting times to enter some stores and unavailability of certain products on the shelves.

Debbie Robinson, chief executive of Central England Co-op, which has a number of stores across Norfolk and Suffolk, announced today that she is calling upon the government to introduce new legislation to better protect key workers.

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She said: “These uncertain times have brought to the fore how our colleagues in stores are key workers and critical to all of our everyday lives.

“However, despite this, 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.

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“Today we tell people this is not acceptable, and we will not tolerate any kind of abuse to our colleagues and we also urge the Government to work harder to recognise the people itself has recognised as being of vital importance to our daily lives.

“Their amazing contribution now needs to be recognised by a change in law so anyone who takes the decision to cross the line with our colleagues knows that retail crime is taken seriously.

“I would hope their status in society will now be permanently elevated and I am redoubling my efforts in lobbying for a change in sentencing law to ensure those who choose to attack our colleagues are held accountable for their actions on the same level as other frontline workers.

“This is not just a Central England Co-op problem, it is an industry-wide problem, and this is why we come together today to say we need change and we need it now.”

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