HUDDERSFIELD shoppers have been urged to back a campaign to protect shopworkers from violence and abuse.
Staff from town centre stores took part in Respect for Shopworkers Day. They joined officials of shopworkers' union Usdaw at a stand in King Street, collecting about 300 signatures from shoppers for a petition demanding greater protection for store staff.
The event was held as part of the union's long-running Freedom from Fear campaign.
Usdaw organiser Liz Hampson said: "It has gone really well. We have had people signing who spoke about their own experiences in suffering abuse at work as nurses or bar and restaurant staff."
Marlene Chapman, who works at Meltham Co-op and attended the event, said: "Verbal abuse and attacks in the retail sector are far too common.
"The vast majority of customers are fine. But we have to protect shopworkers from the small minority of abusive and aggressive customers who are making our working life intolerable.
"We're saying enough is enough."
Figures from Usdaw show that at least 16,200 shopworkers were assaulted at work last year, with an additional 18,600 threatened or abused.
A separate survey by the Co-op - one of the country's biggest retail groups - said violent attacks on staff in its convenience stores rose by 39% last year.
Shoplifters were to blame for almost seven out of 10 assaults on staff while another 9% took place during robberies.
Colne Valley MP Kali Mountford is backing the campaign after hearing of incidents at local stores - including assaults and robberies at the Slaithwaite Co-op and stone-throwing and intimidation at Safeway in Meltham.
Co-op chief executive Martin Beaumont said retailers could help by providing store security and training for staff.
But he added: "We also need the support of a responsive police force and Government policy to address violent crime in the round. At the moment, this is woefully lacking."
The Co-op wants to see retail crime listed specifically in police targets and has called for a national register of police response times to incidents.
Usdaw deputy general secretary John Hannett said most major retailers were backing the union's campaign by putting up signs in their shops saying that abuse of staff would not be tolerated.
He added: "We want to work with employers, councils, the police and the Government to minimise the risks to shop staff."
Have your say