Shop workers face ‘worrying rise’ in verbal abuse from customers, says Mandate union

Shop workers face ‘worrying rise’ in verbal abuse from customers, says Mandate union
Retailers are reporting an increase in the level of verbal abuse they’re receiving from shoppers in the run-up to Christmas, according to trade union Mandate.

After receiving “worrying reports” of an increase in the number of altercations with customers in recent weeks, the union — which represents around 30,000 shop workers in Ireland — is calling for greater respect for frontline workers.

Mandate also reminded employers to play their role in protecting shop workers this Christmas by ensuring that Covid guidelines are followed.

Central Statistics Office data published in October revealed that retail assistants, cashiers and checkout operators were the  workers most likely to catch the virus during the second and third waves of the pandemic, a shift from April 2020, when healthcare staff and social workers were most likely to catch the virus.

In a statement, Mandate General Secretary Gerry Light said there is no doubt that retail staff have been “impacted heavily by the current wave” of Covid-19.

“The least they deserve is a bit of patience and respect,” he said.

“We have seen videos of customers verbally abusing workers in recent days. Employers must do all they can to support their staff when this happens.”

While Christmas is always a stressful time for shop workers, Light said the recent spike in case numbers is exacerbating the challenges retail staff face in the workplace.

“We are asking customers to have heightened levels of awareness of the difficulties facing shop workers”, he said.

“Abuse is not part of the job and it costs nothing to show respect and support to the workers who have kept our shelves full throughout the pandemic.”

Employers also have a role to play at this busy time, he said.

“Employers need to ensure that Covid guidelines are adhered to in order to protect the health of their staff and the public principally by ensuring that shop workers are not put in the firing line by requesting customers to wear masks or to social distance,” he said.

“It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure there is adequate hand sanitiser and that there are no overcrowding issues.”