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'Abuse is never part of the job': Calls for employers and consumers to respect retail workers this Christmas

Trade union Mandate said it has received numerous complaints from retail workers.

Image: Leah Farrell

TRADE UNION MANDATE has called for consumers to respect retail workers over the busy Christmas period following an increase in abusive behaviour.

The union has also reminded employers to “strictly adhere” to social distancing and public health guidance after Level 5 restrictions are lifted.

All non-essential retail businesses are expected to reopen from next week after being forced to close their doors on 22 October. Cabinet will make a final decision on the lifting of Level 5 restrictions today.

In a post on its website, Mandate said, “As we move towards an easing of Level 5 lockdown with shops opening for Christmas, all of us – including employers, the Government and customers – must show genuine respect for frontline retail workers.” 

“While we’ve heard words of support from across Irish society for the sacrifices shop workers have made, very little has changed in terms of really appreciating the efforts carried out by workers in retail.

“If anything, matters have worsened.”

Mandate general secretary Gerry Light explained that the trade union has received “numerous complaints from retail workers who have been “verbally abused or threatened by customers after they were requested to wear a mask or socially distance”.

“Abuse is never part of the job, and in these difficult times, it’s essential that we recognise the efforts of our frontline workers and we all protect them from abusive behaviour,” he said. 

“We’re asking people to be mindful of the pressures facing shop workers and remember that workers requesting that customers abide by health and safety policies do so at the behest of their employer and government regulations.”

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The health and safety of workers should be of paramount importance to employers, Light said.

With that in mind, Mandate wants employers to:

  • Ensure shops are not overcrowded by managing queuing systems. 
  • Investigate whether to extend opening times to spread the customer base.
  • Strictly adhere to the wearing of face coverings and manage social distancing, using qualified staff to police these policies.
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance approach from customers towards staff.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of hand sanitizer is available at all times.

“Christmas is always a busy and very stressful period for everyone, but particularly shop workers, and this year will be more difficult than most,” Light added.

“If we are genuine about our appreciation for the ‘essential work’ of retail staff, then we must all play our part over the coming weeks and months. Respect retail workers, and remember that respect is not just for Christmas.”

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