Shopworkers’ union USDAW has slammed MPs for voting against an amendment to the crime bill which would have resulted in stiffer penalties against those who assault workers serving the public.

The amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill proposed extending existing protections for police officers and Scottish emergency service workers to all workers serving the public, including retail staff. However MPs voted against amending the bill last week.

USDAW general secretary John Hannett said: “I was very disappointed to see Tory and Liberal MPs combining to block Labour’s amendment to provide for stiffer sentences for those who assault workers serving the public. There is a real need to address the scourge of violence against workers and I am concerned that the attackers are getting away with relatively lenient sentences.”

The union also voiced concerns over victims not reporting crimes against them. As part of its Respect for Shopworker Week 2013 (11-15 November), it revealed that one in six victims of a violent assault in the workplace over the past year didn’t report it. Its survey also showed that 46% didn’t report verbal abuse and 33% didn’t report threats against them.

“This level of under-reporting of incidents is of great concern and my message to shopworkers is very clear, abuse is not a part of the job,” said Hannett. “We are encouraging our members to report all incidents of violence, threats and abuse to their managers and help get the issue tackled.”