Usdaw’s House of Commons petition to protect shopworkers from violence and abuse has passed 50,000 signatures, meaning the government will now have to formally respond.

The petition was first launched by the union’s leader Paddy Lillis on August 19 and has since accrued more than 58,000 signatures as of the time of publication. 

Lillis’ petition passed the 10,000 signature threshold for a formal government response inside a day, making it the fastest growing petition on the parliamentary website.

Usdaw has now called on more people to sign the petition in a bid to push it past 100,000 signatures, the number required for a petition to be considered for a parliamentary debate. 

The campaign has been backed by the likes of the Co-op and other trade bodies such as the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores.

The petition was spurred by a survey the union put out to members, which found that between March 14 and April 17 some 62% of just under 5,000 respondents had experienced verbal abuse at work, while 29% reported being threatened and 4% physically assaulted.

Lillis said: “I urge the government to respond positively to my petition, listen to the voices of shopworkers and employers and commit to legislating for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. They have talked about zero tolerance, but that means very little if it is not backed up by strong actions.

“The measures the government have already agreed are worth trying and we hope that they can make a real difference. However, they would be much more likely to succeed if backed up with new legislation; a simple standalone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.

“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”