TWO Co-op store staff who were the victims of horrific attacks at work were among an Usdaw delegation who handed in a petition at 10 Downing Street as part of the union's Freedom From Fear campaign.
Sharon King, a store manager with Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester Co-op, and Mark Duckworth, who worked at a Co-operative Group shop in Cambridge, accompanied Usdaw Deputy General Secretary John Hannett and two other victimised shop workers as a national petition with more than 100,000 signatures calling for greater protection for shopworkers against assaults and abuse was delivered.
Figures recently released by the British Retail Consortium as part of its annual Retail Crime Survey showed that in 2002, shnpworkers were on the receiving end of 16,200 physical assaults; 48,600 threats of attack and 70,000 incidents of verbal abuse.
Said Mr Hannett said: "These appalling figures are only the recorded figures and we know many more incidents go unrecorded. Our members are telling us loud and clear - enough is enough. The petition is just one step in our ongoing campaign to get employers, the Government and the police to take retail crime much more seriously.
"The BRC's statistics underline what we have been saying for some time ? violence and abuse against shopworkers has reached intolerable levels. We must get a grip on this situation because shopworkers deserve to feel safe in their workplaces."
Mr Hannett said he hoped Usdaw's new Charter for Shopworkers, which many major
retailers, including several co-ops have already signed up to, will help to deliver the protection, dignity and respect retail staff deserve.
According to details collated by Usdaw, Sharon King suffered trauma and severe anxiety after having a gun held to her head during an armed robbery. She was afraid to leave her home and was unable to return to work for several months after the incident.
Ms King was able to identify the criminals concerned at an ID parade, but was told the perpetrators could not be tried as there was insufficient evidence to convict them.
In the incident at the Co-op store in Cambridge, Mark Duckworth had his knee broken in two places after he tackled a shoplifter who had began smashing up the shop. Mr Duckworth is unable to return to work as his knee gives way when he walks or stands for long periods.
Usdaw say that in this instance, the assailant was a sectioned schizophrenic who was not charged and was allowed to go free six hours after the assault.