The shopworkers’ union has said it will be meeting with the management of Andover’s Tesco Extra following an assault on one of its staff last week.

A 62-year-old employee remains in hospital following the attack, which saw a heavy emergency service response to the River Way site on the evening of Thursday, July 29.

Following the incident, USDAW – The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers – says it wants to see how to “improve safety for staff” at the store.

While unable to comment on the ongoing investigation, USDAW regional secretary Rab Donnelly told the Advertiser: “Our thoughts are with the victim and his family, we hope and pray he can recover from this.

“We are supporting our members through this very difficult time and in due course we will be meeting with store management to see what can be done to improve safety for staff in the store.”

It follows concerns being raised against abuse of staff in shops, with a survey of members undertaken by USDAW finding that incidents of violence and abuse had increased during the pandemic.

They found almost 90 per cent of members had reported verbal abuse in the past year, with 60 per cent reporting being threatened with violence, and nine per cent reporting that they had been attacked. This is an increase from 2019, when reports of attacks were at 5 per cent, and brings figures in the union’s annual reports to a five year high.

Reasons given as triggers for this behaviour include many of the effects of the pandemic, including a lack of stock, the wearing of face coverings and social distancing, as well as other causes such as age-restricted sales.

“All too often shopworkers are on the receiving end of violence, threats and abuse, which is totally unacceptable,” Mr Donnelly said.

“It is a growing problem, which became much worse during the pandemic, and largely stems from a lack of respect for the key workers who have kept this country fed through a crisis. This cannot and must not continue”.

The union has launched a ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign, which is calling on the government to introduce a new offence for those who attack shopworkers, similar to the existing offence of assaulting emergency workers.

An amendment to that effect was introduced for the policing bill currently in Parliament, but was rejected by MPs in July. However, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the government was “actively considering” new laws to protect shop workers from violence, which it would introduce in the House of Lords “if appropriate”.