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Our frontline shop workers are too important to treat this way

2 min read

This pandemic has taught us all a great deal about what really matters in life. One of the key lessons has been that our society cannot function without the dedication and hard work of our frontline workers. Yet all too often they are undervalued and underpaid.

In the grip of this deadly virus, through the darkest moments, it was impossible not to be struck by the extraordinary dedication shown by shopworkers.  

Right from the earliest days, when the full extent of the virus was still being discovered, the risks to people were unknown, and virtually no testing was available, they kept coming in to work every day, putting themselves at risk to serve our communities.  

Our shopworkers made sure there was food on people’s tables and that families could access vital supplies, even opening stores early and staying late, to make sure vulnerable people and key workers got what they needed.  

These workers have been there for us in the toughest of times – and we must be there for them now.

This is a chance, an opportunity, to make lasting change in law

Sadly, we know that too often the reward for working so hard to serve their communities can be unacceptable levels of abuse.  

Recent Usdaw research laid bare the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers. In the last year almost 90 per cent of shopworkers suffered abuse with two-thirds threatened and nearly one in ten assaulted.

Things can’t go on as they are.  That is why we are calling for MPs to come together on Monday and back the amendment calling for greater protection of shopworkers in law, strengthening punishments for those who attack shop workers – and bringing them in to line with other attacks on frontline workers.

This is a chance, an opportunity, to make lasting change in law – and we are urging MPs from all parties to come forward and take it.

We united as a country to clap for our frontline workers at the start of this pandemic – let us use that energy to deliver long overdue change. It is the very least people who have worked so hard and risked so much to serve their communities deserve.

Nick Thomas-Symonds is Labour MP Torfaen and shadow home secretary and Paddy Lillis is general secretary of Usdaw

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