Shocking abuse against shop workers getting 'worse and worse' during pandemic

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Being attacked, purposefully coughed at or being a target for abuse are just some of the things shop workers have had to deal with as tensions rise due to coronavirus.

Shop staff have been praised for acting like “the fourth emergency service” during the coronavirus pandemic, but one supermarket manager says abuse against staff is getting “worse and worse”.

David Joe Williams is a convenience store worker in Devon. In November, he was attacked outside his shop as he tried to move on a man who was being disrespectful to other customers and business owners.

David Joe Williams is a convenience store worker in Devon. Credit: ITV

He told ITV News West Country: “We try to be respectful of people and understand if they are exempt from wearing masks but we also don’t think we deserve any abuse if we try to enforce this.”

Shop workers union USDAW says incidents of abuse have doubled during the pandemic.

Alex Bingha, of USDAW, said: “We’ve had examples of people purposefully coughing in our members’ faces, we’ve had bags of shopping thrown at our members, we’ve had our members have to break up fights where people have been arguing, bizarely, over whether covid exists.”

Peter Thorp, area manager for Co-op, said: “I’ve worked in the food retail business now for 40 years and without a doubt it’s got worse and worse and worse and I’ve never known anything like it is at the moment. 

Co-op area manager Peter Thorp Credit: ITV

“It’s been a really bad year this year and in fact we know that across the UK, 400 people are attacked working in shops every day.”

A petition calling for more legal protection to protect shop workers from abuse has now reached more than 100,000 signatures - enough to trigger a parliamentary debate. 

It’s a campaign being backed by Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez.

She said: “We’ve had people who have been working in retail by our side since we went into Covid. They’ve almost been a fourth emergency service.

“Without a doubt we’re surprised that they’ve had such abuse and such difficulties during this time.”

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