Supermarket worker punched by customer who didn't want to queue - the rising abuse of staff during Covid

  • Watch Ben McGrail's report

Shop staff in the West Country have reported a worrying rise in verbal and physical abuse by customers since the Covid pandemic began.

The union Usdaw says nine out of 10 of its members have reported being treated like this in the past year, with one in 10 suffering actual physical violence.

The organisation says many issues surrounding Covid-compliant shopping and trading have triggered these incidents.

Tracey Lowther works at a major supermarket in Bridgwater and says she and her colleagues have been shocked by how rude and aggressive many customers have been to them.

She said: "We’re finding that people are abusive about waiting, we’re finding that people are abusive if they don’t want to wear a mask.

"We’ve had colleagues that have been actually punched in the chest. One of our female colleagues - it was one of her first one or two days of doing marshalling on the doors - she was actually punched by a man because he didn’t want to wait in the queue."

Usdaw's Freedom From Fear report from highlights just how much of a problem verbal abuse and even physical violence has become for its members.

Enforcing social distancing in-store (24%), face coverings (15%), queueing to enter the store (17%), limiting sales (14%) and a lack of stock (15%) are some of the most common issues that have led to shopworker abuse and violence.

Dave Clift is a regional organisers for the union in the South West. He said: "What we’re calling for is for a shop-workers law.

"If you were to assault a police officer or a paramedic I dare say the law would come down on you quite hard. We feel the same should apply people that are working in shops.

"At the end of the day, these are ordinary people that go to work, they put their uniform on to provide a service to the community - to serve us. They don’t go to work to be subjected to the violence and abuse and assaults that we are seeing."

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