The boss of a Lichfield retailer has described a rise in abuse against staff as “totally unacceptable”.
Central England Co-op said it had seen an increase across the 260 food stores and petrol stations it operates.
One incident saw someone threaten to cough and spit on workers.
The company said reports of incidents had risen from 11 a week to 24 over the past month – with the figure now four times higher than the same period last year.
Central England Co-op Chief Executive Debbie Robinson said:
“Throughout these uncertain times our colleagues have been and continue to do everything they can to ensure our community stores have enough food and essential items for everyone.
“On the whole, our members and customers have been supportive and showed our frontline heroes care, compassion and respect.
“However, as the figures released today show, we have a minority who ignore these pleas and treat our hardworking teams in a totally unacceptable manner.
“Today we again ask for people to be kind and respectful to those working in our stores and to understand the changes we have had to put in place are to keep our colleagues and our communities safe and healthy.
“For anyone who does not support us, we will continue to work closely with local police forces to showcase that we have a zero tolerance approach to any violent or threatening behaviour towards our colleagues.”Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-op
“Lobbying for a change in sentencing law”
Shoppers have seen a raft of new measures introduced to help ensure social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, including reduced numbers of people in stores.
The company’s chief has now called for further steps to be taken to protect staff.
“I am a strong campaigner for shop workers to be treated as public servants in the eyes of the law, in cases where they suffer violence or risk from the public.
“I would hope their status in society will now be permanently elevated and I am redoubling my efforts in lobbying for a change in sentencing law to ensure those who choose to attack our colleagues are held accountable for their actions on the same level as other frontline workers.”Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-op