The chief executive of Central England Co-op has co-signed a letter with fellow retail bosses asking Prime Minister Boris Johnson to afford greater protection to shop workers who face violence and aggression from customers.
Debbie Robinson joined forces with leading figures from the likes of Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Boots and many other retail giants to speak directly to Number 10 and urge leading political figures to support Alex Norris, MP for Nottingham North, and his Assault on Shop Workers Bill when it is given a second reading in Parliament in September. The bill aims for staff in stores to be afforded greater protection in carrying out those public duties.
The decision to co-sign the letter comes at a time that the retailer, which has over 260 stores across 16 counties, revealed that assaults had jumped by 100%, threats and intimidation by 25% and verbal abuse by 175% since the start of the year, and since the lockdown was introduced, there have been over 100 incidents related directly to people using COVID-19 as a threat.
Some examples of incidents have included multiple threats by customers to cough on colleagues and ‘give them Coronavirus’ and further threats of assaults because people have had to queue to enter stores, social distance or simply because they do not have a specific product.
Robinson said: “Stronger laws and punishments are needed for criminals who feel that it is acceptable to target shop workers in these types of brutal and appalling ways.
“While we continue to campaign for more to be done, we also want to send a message to would-be criminals. We have a zero tolerance approach to any kind of crime and, if you still want to commit a crime, we will work around the clock with local police forces to bring you to justice in an effort to keep our colleagues and customers safe.”
Central England Co-op has been running a long-term campaign showcasing its zero tolerance’ approach to violence and aggression towards colleagues.
The campaign has also received backing from over 200 other MPs up and down the country and from across the pollical divide. Support has also come from several police forces and police and crime commissioners.
Over the past three years, Central England Co-op has invested heavily in measures to protect colleagues including fitting stores with external motion detectors and a centrally monitored CCTV system fitted which allows colleagues to call for assistance at the touch of a button.