You may not thank me for pointing this out, but Christmas is just 42 days away. So we all have another five weeks to plan our celebrations and watch those Christmas adverts on TV. As we do so, spare a thought for the shop workers for whom this is by far the busiest time of year, as well as the most stressful.
Around three million people work in retail, according to the British Retail Consortium, and many who don't will know friends or relatives who do. USDAW, the union that represents shop workers, says that every minute of every day a shop worker is threatened or physically or verbally abused. That's a shameful statistic. That's why USDAW's Respect for Shop workers week that begins on Monday is so important. USDAW members will be campaigning and organising workplace events throughout the week. If you want to show your support for it, you can do so here.
The campaign forms part of USDAW's Freedom from Fear campaign, which is in its fourteenth year. My first ever question to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair was about the Freedom from Fear campaign. I've been supporting it ever since. It encourages employers to treat abuse suffered by staff seriously and gives workers the confidence to speak out about it.
The union works closely with retailers and the police to tackle the problem, but it's still far too prevalent. Christmas can be a challenging time because it places finances and family relationships under pressure, but for shopworkers who do very long hours over the festive period, it can be especially gruelling. They face the same pressures we do, but they are also in the front line when stressed out shoppers can't find the present they want. If something goes wrong, they are the first to know about it. Abuse or intimidation should never be regarded as just another part of the job. So show your support for them this week - and lets ensure stressed shoppers keep their cool this Christmas.