Freedom from fear  

January 3rd, 2011

Just when you thought the shopping chaos was finished now that Christmas is over, the Boxing Day sales are well and truly under way.

From the last-minute scrambles to get the Christmas shopping to the bargain-hunting in the sales, it is a busy period for the avid shoppers out there.

If you dread this as much as me, no matter what time of the year, you will have no doubt relied upon a helpful shop assistant for some generous advice or direction plenty of times.

While most of us are enjoying earning a well-earned break over the Christmas period, it is important that we remember all those who put in extra hours, from workers in shops to restaurants, hospitals to post offices.

With the long hours and the hustle and bustle in their stores, shopworkers in particular face a challenging time to cope with demanding customers.

I spent some time with staff at Tesco recently to discuss the Freedom from Fear campaign, which seeks to protect workers from abuse.

I was shocked to learn that more than a third of workers delivering a service to the public have experienced either physical or verbal abuse in their place of work.

According to Retailers Against Crime, there has been a 78 per cent increase in against Scottish shop workers over the last three years.

These figures are unacceptable and no one should have to put up with violence, or the threat of it, while doing their job and I would support any measures to make shopping areas safer for workers and customers.

That is why I was supportive of efforts to bring forward legislation that protects workers from violence, as proposed by my colleague Hugh Henry in a private members’ bill.

Despite initially receiving cross-party support, the Scottish Government shot down the bill last week just days before Christmas.

For those hard-working shop assistants facing up to their busiest time of year, it was another slap in the face.