Wigan shop staff abused by customers over face mask rules enforcement

Supermarket staff are facing abuse from customers who are "frustrated" about having to wear face masks due to Covid, councillors in Wigan have been told.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 8:15 am
The wearing of face masks has been the cause of much conflict in shops, councillors heard

Retailers have reported incidents in which their employees have been abused verbally. In "one or two" cases, staff have been physically abused as well.

Council bosses have committed to supporting supermarkets and other shops across the borough as they prepare to reopen when restrictions are relaxed.

It comes as a scrutiny committee was told on Monday of a recent rise in anti-social behaviour coupled with an increase in drug offences, knife crime and robbery – but thefts, burglaries and car crime figures have fallen.

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Coun George Davies

Wigan central councillor George Davies told the committee shop assistants are getting "quite a lot of abuse" from people who are not wearing masks.

He also said staff at the Grand Arcade shopping centre were suffering.

He said: “When we had the bad weather, quite a lot of people were using the Grand Arcade. They were just sheltering themselves but, some of the team there were getting abuse from a lot of teenagers who were trying to get into the Grade Arcade.”

But Coun Lawrence Hunt, who also represents the town centre, said some disabled people who are exempt from wearing masks were also facing abuse.

Rebecca Murphy, the council’s director of strategy and transformation, said she thinks people are becoming "frustrated" about having to wear masks.

Service manager Sarah Owen told the committee that the retailers are encouraged to contact the community safety team to report any abuse.

She said: “Throughout lockdown, all the shops that have been open – which have tended to be the main supermarkets – they have all been given contact details for the community safety response during Covid and we’ve had quite a few of them ringing in relation to shop staff being abused verbally, and one or two physically in fairness.

“What we’ve been doing is we’ve then been going out and joining them to give them that support – as we have the schools opening and closing.

“And our colleagues in regulatory services have been round to every single supermarket in the borough seeing how they are, checking up, making sure they’re ready for opening up etc.

“I take on board fully what you’re saying about that abuse – it’s totally out of order. But we have been trying to support wherever we can.”

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