Monday 8 December 2008

Mandate call on shoppers to respect retail workers this Christmas.

Mandate trade union, which represents over 50,000 workers in the retail sector, is calling on Christmas shoppers to respect retail workers over the coming festive period. The trade union launched a major new campaign today on Dublin‘s Henry Street called Respect Retail Workers. The campaign aims to create more awareness of this issue and protect shopworkers from abuse and violence in the workplace.

The 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 (the final results will be published early in the New Year) 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.

Mandate’s National Coordinator for Campaigns, Brian Forbes said, “What we hope to achieve with this campaign is that consumers recognise the pressures retail workers are under this Christmas and continue to afford them the dignity and respect they deserve.

“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.”

Mr Forbes states that many incidents of abuse are based around issues which are completely outside the control of the shopworker.

“Our survey results show 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 are high on the agenda of customer complaints, yet retail workers have very little control over these matters.

“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 worker’s whole week.”

Mandate General Secretary, John Douglas 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, particularly this Christmas, 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.”

One worker who works in a major national retail company and wished to remain anonymous said, “As workers we try to deliver the very best service we can to the general public, sometimes under very difficult and stressful circumstances. Unfortunately, in many instances we are subjected to various forms of verbal, and in some cases physical abuse. Being on the receiving end of abuse leaves me feeling depressed and withdrawn, which impacts adversely on my family life. I just wish people would remember that shopworkers have feelings too.”

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.