Local parliamentarians Iain Gray MSP and Martin Whitfield MP are backing a Labour colleague’s attempt to strengthen the law on the protection of shopworkers.

Daniel Johnson MSP, Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern and the party’s Justice Spokesperson, spoke about his proposed Protection of Workers Bill at a recent meeting of East Lothian Constituency Labour Party.

Mr Johnson outlined the growing scale of the number of incidents of violence faced by staff working in the retail sector, with figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) suggesting a 65 per cent increase in convenience store crime during 2017.

A recent survey by shopworkers’ union Usdaw found a 25 per cent increase in violence, while a Scottish Grocers Federation survey which found that 99 per cent of respondents experienced incidents of violence or abuse in 2017.

Mr Johnson told the meeting that these shocking figures underline the urgent need for extra protection for retail staff, particularly when it comes to challenging thieves and enforcing age-restricted purchases.

He is now in the process of drafting his Member’s Bill on the issue and hopes to be able to proceed with it in the Scottish Parliament after the summer recess.

Speaking about his support for the bill, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Survey after survey of staff in the retail sector show the same shocking results – a steady increase in the number of violent incidents, threats and verbal abuse suffered by shopworkers and other retail staff. This is totally unacceptable and must be tackled.

“Daniel’s member’s bill provides an opportunity for parliament to act and introduce additional protections for retail workers. His proposal would strengthen the law and hopefully help to reduce the level of violence and abuse experienced by shopworkers in East Lothian and across Scotland.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“I know from speaking to shop staff that verbal abuse and violence has become almost a daily occurrence for many in the retail sector. This kind of behaviour is inexcusable and obviously already against the law. However, the scale of the problem is such that additional sanctions are now needed.

“What Daniel is proposing in his bill would provide additional assurance for shop staff that the law will protect them when they are doing their job. It would also send a clear message to the minority of the public who behave in an abusive or violent way towards shop staff that it will not be tolerated.”

The campaign is also being supported by local businessman Ferhan Ashiq, who joined the parliamentarians in showing their support for the legislation.

Ferhan said:

“It was really important that Daniel came to East Lothian to advocate for his bill and gather momentum for the cause. Assaults, whether they are physical or verbal, are a major issue among East Lothian’s retailers, as they will be in the rest of the country.

“Over the years both myself and my staff have been subjected to verbal abuse, on a near daily basis, which has had the effect of leaving some of them feeling very vulnerable on the shop floor. I fully support this bill and hope it will lead to a substantial reduction in attacks on shop workers up and down the country.”

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