East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle said: “Community safety is the foundation for any democratic society and a prerequisite for economic development and investment. As a former shopworker myself I am proud to advocate on behalf of this sector and to call on this Assembly to send out a clear message that this harassment will not be tolerated in our society.
“The 2010 Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers Annual Survey; for example, has found that of 1000 shopworkers surveyed, 10% were victims of violent attack and 70% suffered verbal abuse. I call on our Executive; therefore, to consider action to tackle these startling statistics for shopworker abuse.
“It is simply unacceptable to receive reports of young pregnant women being attacked in their place of work, of workers being kicked and spat on, and of staff being kidnapped from the sanctity of their own home because of their employment in the retail sector. In my own constituency, staff in a particular newsagent have been subjected to two attempted robberies in recent weeks. This type of abuse leaves staff in fear and can have serious impact on their health.
“Today we give voice to these hardworking members of our community; young people starting out, mothers, fathers, older people, foreign nationals and people working second jobs to make ends meet. We recognise the service they provide to our community and we support them in their calls for the basic right of safety in the workplace.
“Of all the harassment shopworkers face, it’s for refusing the sale of alcohol that the greatest abuse is experienced. There aren’t too many of us in the Assembly who need worry about not looking over 25, but I do have friends and acquaintances that, whilst over 18, have not been served alcohol in the absence of proof of age. This is, at worst, slightly inconvenient and I am appalled that anyone can stoop so low as to attack someone who has rightly followed legal and employer obligation.
“Christmas is one of the busiest and most challenging times of year for our retail sector and it’s essential we raise awareness of this issue and state clearly that our shopworkers must be treated with dignity and respect.
“The Stormont Executive has a duty to consider any feasible measures they can take to ensure people can work free from such terrifying ordeals.”