Co-op Group staff protest against ‘dangerous’ one-on-one shifts

'I have been held up at gun point before, and also a machete. I’ve had altercations with plenty of thieves and drunken people'

A group of Co-op Group workers have handed a petition in to the retailer’s head office in Manchester to complain about one-on-one shifts, where just two staff are on duty in a store.

The petition, addressed to chief executive Steve Murrells, calls on the Group to: “Put an end to one-on-one shifts and have at least three staff for all shifts. Having just two staff is not enough to do all the work required whilst keeping customers happy.”

It adds: “It’s also unsafe to have just one staff on the shop floor and one in the back in case of an accident.

“Please put an end to one-on-one shifts and replace them with something safer, better for the customer and manageable for your staff.”

The staff members – working with the assistance of workplace campaign group Organise – met the Group’s head of retail PR Craig Noonan to discuss the issue. And they handed out a booklet to staff in the lobby, which contained accounts of incidents in stores around the country.

Craig Noonan (right), the Group’s head of retail PR, discusses the issue with staff

These include armed robberies at Co-op stores, a lack of security, and too much work being expected of staff, the petition says.

The petition, which has attracted 5,904 signatures, adds: “We frequently have customers complaining about having to queue, about the lack of stock on the shelves and the fact that there are never staff members on the shop floor to help customers. This not only puts stress on the manager but also on the rest of the staff, which leads to low staff morale and staff members going off sick. It also means good staff leaving the company.

Related: What are co-ops doing to tackle security concerns?

“One to one shifts also cause problems for health and safety as often there is only one member of staff on shop floor, leaving them vulnerable. The staff member at the back of the store could also have an accident; by the time the other staff member realises, it might be too late to help.”

A Group colleague at a store in Maidstone, Kent, wrote: “I have been held up at gun point before, and also a machete. I’ve had altercations with plenty of thieves and drunken people. It makes me very nervous as you just don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

From Wokingham, a colleague wrote: “We have robbers come in to check out how many people are on the shop floor and then we get robbed! We regularly have shoplifters but we are able to stop them if we are not one on one.”

And in Greater Manchester, a worker with type-1 diabetes wrote: “I have had hypos due to not being able to have a break being one-on-one. The fear comes into play because of the dangers if I pass out while in the warehouse and the other member of staff is unaware.”

Other accounts complained of customers being kept waiting because of the short staffing, and tasks not completed efficiently.

A team member from Great Yarmouth wrote: “If both myself and a team leader are on the till, the shop floor itself is not being correctly supervised and monitored … Staff are always going home later than their shift.”

A Co-op Group spokesperson said: “Safety of colleagues is our number one priority and our policy is not to have lone workers in any store.”

They added that the Group works closely with police and other crime prevention bodies to implement a range of measures designed to deter and disrupt criminal activity, while increasing the likelihood of convictions.

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