Unions and public swing behind new bill to protect service workers

A members bill proposed by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson to create extra protections for workers in retail and hospitality has received overwhelming support from unions and the public.

99 per cent of workers in the service sector have received physical or verbal abuse while on the job, and current protections have widely been deemed inadequate. John Hannett, the General Secretary of USDAW - the shopworkers’ union - made it clear that he was deeply concerned about the safety of retail staff, particularly in contexts where they are selling restricted items. The 2018 Scottish Crime Report identified asking for ID and refusing sale as the two principal triggers for threats and intimidation. Speaking on the threats to staff, Hannett said:

"By not asking for ID, retail workers leave themselves open to legal action, but are aware that they are likely to be subject to threats and possibly violence when they do. Usdaw remains committed to the safety of shopworkers and highlighting that abuse is not part of the job.”

Stewart Forrest, head of USDAW’s Scottish division backed the bill wholeheartedly:

"The Scottish Parliament requires shopworkers to enforce the law on age restricted sales, so the Scottish Parliament should ensure that shopworkers have the full protection of the law. There needs to be clear and serious consequences for those who abuse or assault retail staff.”

Of the one thousand responses to the consultation, 95 per cent were in favour, with only 2 per cent opposed. Big retailers and employers’ associations like the Scottish Grocers’ Federation also backed the bill, with their chief executive Pete Cheema describing it as a “a major step forward in creating a safer environment for shop workers”, and urging MSPs from across to the political spectrum to support it.

The bill, which will be formally presented to Holyrood on Tuesday, has already received the pre-requisite eighteen supporters from three different parties needed for it to progress. Speaking on the bill, Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“For too many workers, violence and abuse are just part of the job.

“I have lodged a bill that ensures crimes against workers are taken seriously, with new criminal offences for those who abuse and are violent against staff.

“My consultation received over 1,000 responses and found that the overwhelming majority of businesses, workers and unions agree that something must be done.

“This has further reinforced my view that this legislation is necessary and taps into a strong public feeling of being let down by how the current criminal justice system deals with violence and abuse against workers.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with stakeholders as I hope to draft and introduce a bill in the coming months.

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