Shadow Home Office Minister Jack Dromey MP has pledged stronger penalties for attacks against shopworkers if Labour comes into power at the next election.

“We have pressed the government to act. If they don’t we will. We will strengthen the law and see it effectively enforced by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service and we will ensure that employers take action to ensure the safety of their staff,” he said.

Dromey said the police and government had failed to protect UK shopworkers. “The police have thus far not taken sufficiently seriously crime against shopworkers and the government has lamentably failed to protect our nation’s shopworkers including cutting 15,000 police officers,” he added. “I want to send an unmistakable message to shop workers; you have the right to go to work confident that you will be treated with respect and you have a right to freedom from fear.”

Dromey was speaking at a meeting with shopworkers union USDAW, which welcomed the pledge.

USDAW general secretary John Hannett said: “Every day over 300 shopworkers are assaulted simply for doing their job. The government’s warm words and sympathy are not enough, we need action because of the numerous examples of those assaulting shopworkers receiving lenient sentences or incidents not even being taken to court.

“We will continue to campaign for a change in the law that will encourage more prosecutions and send a clear message to the public that assaulting a worker in the course of their duties is totally unacceptable. However, it is looking increasingly likely that will only be delivered if Labour returns to government.”