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January 18, 2010

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Assaults on shopworkers to be subject to tougher penalties

The Scottish parliament is addressing the safety of shopworkers with the introduction of a new bill that will see them afforded similar protection to emergency workers.

The Workers (Aggravated Offences) Bill, which is being brought by Hugh Henry MSP, will mean tougher penalties for those who assault retail staff. It calls for such assaults to be recognised as an aggravated crime, as it currently is for front-line workers, such as the emergency services.  

Said Mr Henry: “Violent physical assaults against workers serving the public in Scotland are an all-too common phenomenon. While progress has been made in strengthening criminal penalties for assaults against some workers, too many still lack sufficient protection at work.

“The Emergency Workers Act 2005 sought to provide additional protection to certain groups of workers by introducing tougher penalties for those found guilty of assaulting, hindering, or obstructing those workers. This proposed legislation seeks to apply the protections contained within the Emergency Workers Act to any worker who provides a face-to-face service to the public.”

The bill is supported by shopworkers’ union Usdaw, whose general secretary, John Hannett, added: “Shopworkers provide a vital service to the public, but they are often
seen as an easy target for violence and abuse.  Our latest survey showed that one in 10 shopworkers has been assaulted while at work.

“Usdaw is supporting Hugh Henry’s bill through the Scottish parliament, and we have started campaigning for a similar law in England and Wales.”

Since the introduction of the Emergency Workers Act, the number of assaults on emergency staff has fallen, and the number of convictions has risen. However, assaults on workers not covered by the Act have risen over the same period.

As it has the necessary support from MSPs, the bill can move forward and is due to be drafted by early May. As well as Usdaw, it is backed by Unite, Unison, CWU and ASLEF.

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