Hundreds of MPs back Co-op campaign calling for better protection for colleagues who face COVID-19 related verbal and physical threats
Hundreds of MPs from across the country have teamed up with Central England Co-op to back a campaign calling for better protection for colleagues dealing with would-be criminals who use the Coronavirus as a verbal and physical threat towards colleagues.
Today the retailer, which operates over 260 food stores across 16 counties, joins forces with over 200 parliamentarians from across the political divide to reinforce its message to keep staff and customers safe and that any type of crime from burglaries to violence and aggression towards staff would ‘not be tolerated’ during these uncertain times.
Jim McMahon MP, Chair of the Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group, said: “It’s officially been over a year since the Home Office’s Call for Evidence on violence and abuse towards shop workers, and thousands of people who submitted evidence are still waiting for their experiences to be taken into account.
“Since the Call for Evidence closed there will have been hundreds of thousands of incidents of abuse and violence in shops across the country, and since the lockdown started the abuse has only increased. This isn’t fair and it isn’t right.
“Shop workers have been going to work and quite literally putting themselves at risk so the rest of us can get the food and other essential items we need, and dealing with unimaginable anxiety in the process, they shouldn’t have to deal with people threatening to give them Covid-19 on top of that.”
Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, said: “I am disappointed to have heard about the abuse that some key shop workers have been facing for just doing their job and helping people.
“I do not condone this behaviour and am appalled to hear that staff have been treated this way. It is selfish to behave this way and we cannot let this violent and threatening behaviour stand.”
Lillian Greenwood, MP for Nottingham South, said: “We owe a lot to our shop workers who have and continue to work tirelessly throughout the coronavirus crisis to support our communities.
“Any violence or threats towards them are completely unacceptable and more must be done to protect them.”
Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire, said: "Anyone who deliberately tries to expose anyone to coronavirus, or even pretends to, should be ashamed of themselves and face the full weight of the law.”
Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, said: “It is completely unacceptable that shop workers routinely face threats and violence in normal times, it is especially abhorrent that they should have to do so while doing such a vital job during the pandemic. I stand with shop workers who have to deal with this vile behaviour.
“The Government needs to take urgent action to better protect these key workers and take retail crime seriously.”
This campaign update comes after the retailer joined forces with co-operatives up and down the country in a plea to better protect its colleagues.
New figures have seen assaults jump by 100%, threats and intimidation by 25% and verbal abuse by 175% since the start of the year, and since the lockdown was introduced, there have been over 100 incidents related directly to people using COVID-19 as a threat.
Some examples of incidents have included multiple threats by customers to cough on colleagues and ‘give them Coronavirus’ and further threats of assaults because people have had to queue to enter stores, social distance or simply because they do not have a specific product.
The Society has long campaigned for the Government to change legislation so shop workers are afforded greater protection in carrying out those public duties and today are saying more needs to be done now to protect these critical workers and to curb a potential crime epidemic.
Craig Goldie, Loss Prevention Manager, said: “During these uncertain times we are all having to adapt but one thing that remains constant for us here at Central England Co-op is our zero tolerance towards all types of crime.
“We want to send a clear message out to anyone who might consider targeting our stores at this time – it is not worth the risk and no crime will be tolerated.”
Over the past three years, Central England Co-op has invested heavily in measures to protect colleagues and customers including fitting stores with external motion detectors and a centrally monitored CCTV system fitted which allows colleagues to call for assistance at the touch of a button.
Notes to editors
About Central England Co-operative
Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral, travel and property investment.
Co-operatives have always been there for their communities; they were formed to protect them and help them flourish.
Our 7,900 colleagues who serve Members and customers work hard to ensure that co-operative values, principles and spirit flow through everything we do to help support and improve our local communities.
Owned by hundreds of thousands of Members, we have over 430 trading outlets across 16 counties including West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
We are proud of our reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.
We invest a percentage of our trading profit into local communities through our Community Dividend Fund scheme, have donated over £1.3 million to our corporate charity partner Dementia UK and also operate a pioneering food redistribution partnership with FareShare Midlands so unsold food goes to those in need.
Visit www.centralengland.coop for more information or follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @mycoopfood
Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle
Phone - 01543 421390
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