WATERFORD MAYOR CALLS ON SHOPPERS TO RESPECT RETAIL WORKERS

Thursday 16 April 2009, 05pm

Councillor Jack Walsh, Mayor of Waterford City Council today (Friday, 30 January 2008) called on shoppers in the South East to refrain from using verbal and physical abuse against retail workers. Mayor Walsh was speaking in support of a new campaign launched by Mandate trade union called Respect Retail Workers.

Mandate trade union represent over 50,000 workers in the retail sector including several thousand in Waterford. The trade union launched the major new campaign last month in order to create more awareness of this issue and protect shopworkers throughout the country from abuse and violence in the workplace.
 
The Respect Retail Workers campaign came about as a result of an increase in complaints from retail workers regarding both verbal and physical abuse from customers. Mandate commissioned research to establish the extent of this abuse and the preliminary results reveal that:
 
·        Over 70% of retail workers experienced verbal abuse in the last 12 months;
·        A further 30% of retail workers received threats from a customer in the past year;
·        And almost 10% of shopworkers were assaulted by a customer during the course of their employment.
 
Mayor Walsh was launching the Waterford campaign in the Granville Hotel where he said, “I would urge all retail customers in Waterford and the South East to please be mindful and continue to show respect towards shopworkers. It is clearly a minority of shoppers who abuse retail staff, but it is important that we are all aware of the problem and we refrain from any sort of abuse towards these workers.
 
“Mandate trade union has received complaints from workers throughout the whole country, including from workers in Waterford. What they hope to achieve with this campaign is that consumers recognise the pressures retail workers are under and continue to afford them the dignity and respect they deserve.
 
“According to Mandates’ experience and from the survey results, many incidents of abuse are based around issues which are completely outside the control of the shopworker.
 
“It seems that nine times out of ten, the problem the customer has is completely out of the control of the employee. Issues such as clothing sizes, refund policies and a lack of stock instigate a lot of customer complaints, yet retail workers have very little control over these issues. These matters are obviously company policies and consumers need to make that connection.
 
Mandate’s Divisional Organiser in Waterford, Betty Dillon said, “This campaign, which is Mandate’s most significant campaign in several years, has a number of objectives including raising awareness of this issue and trying to influence change from the minority of people who tend to abuse retail workers. We would also like retail employers to be more aware of the stresses their workers are put under due to the behaviour of this minority of customers and take actions to protect their employees.
 
“It’s clear from the survey that it is a minority of customers who treat retail workers badly and this is not acceptable in the long run. As one of our members put it, abuse is not part of the job but it only takes one customer from a thousand to have an adverse effect on a retail workers whole week.”
 
One worker who works in a major national retail company in Waterford but wished to remain anonymous told Mandate, “Some Customers can get very abusive about not being able to get baskets. Customers can also get very abusive with staff on self-scan due to there being no checkouts open before 10:00 a.m.”
 
Mandate’s National Coordinator for Campaigns, Brian Forbes who attended the launch in Waterford said, “Everybody is aware that there have been cutbacks in the retail sector including the loss of jobs and a reduction in hours. This will result in a more pressurised atmosphere for retail workers causing more stress and it’s important that consumers are aware of this. We should remember that people working in the retail sector are also experiencing their own personal and financial pressures so they don’t need the added stress of verbal or physical abuse while at work.”
 
The wholesale and retail sector now accounts for the largest share of employment in the Irish economy with over 200,000 people working in the retail industry alone.
 
Further results from the Respect Retail Workers survey revealed that:
 
·        10% of retail workers experienced verbal abuse everyday;
·        30% of retail workers experienced verbal abuse every week;
·        41% of retail workers experienced verbal abuse every month;

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