Hull North MP Diana Johnson today backed shopworkers in giving a red card to verbal abuse after a new survey found that 95% of retail staff have been verbally abused.
The new campaign, Usdaw United Against Abuse, had teams across Britain handing out red cards on national 'Respect for Shopworkers Day' (12 July) reminding shoppers that verbal abuse is a form of intimidation suffered at work by millions of retail staff every year.
Hull North Diana Johnson MP said: "I was shocked to hear Usdaw's research, which found that at least one million shopworkers are verbally abused every working day.
"Most shoppers would never think of physically assaulting a shopworker, but many seem to think it is acceptable to shout, scream and hurl abuse into the faces of retail staff. Just like any other form of anti-social or criminal behaviour, it will not be tolerated."
Usdaw's General Secretary, John Hannett said: "Last year verbal abuse of shop staff shot up by an alarming 35%. Our members are saying enough is enough and they will no longer tolerate vile abuse as part of their daily working lives.
"Football referees can use a red card against players who verbally abuse them so our members will be using an Usdaw red card to spread the message that abusing staff is unacceptable.
"Our members can suffer a terrifying catalogue of physical abuse from being stabbed, hit with iron bars and being threatened with dirty syringes, but vicious verbal abuse day after day can be psychologically damaging, resulting in many shopworkers quitting their jobs."
Usdaw members report that serious instances of graphic swearing, sexist comments, homophobic abuse and racist taunts from out of control shoppers are rising sharply.
Diana Johnson MP added: "The message is simple. Shop staff are human beings, not verbal punchbags for shoppers to take out their frustrations on.
"Although the position of shopworkers has improved since 1997, these are still some of the lowest paid employees in the economy. They have a right to work in a non-threatening environment.
"The red card is a final reminder to shoppers that no matter how stressed they might feel, it does not give them the right to verbally abuse a retail worker."