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NRA asks Victorian Government for support in dealing with customer abuse

One in four retail workers were verbally abused last year. (Source: Bigstock)

As of 11:59 pm last night, only fully vaccinated Victorians are permitted to enter non-essential retail businesses throughout the state – a move National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb is concerned will serve to see the already high level of customer aggression balloon without more support from the state government.

Lamb is asking the Victorian Government to commit a greater police presence in high-density shopping precincts, as well as delivering the necessary resources to allow authorities to respond quickly to incidents of customer aggression.

“We know from experiences in other states that the government simply saying only vaccinated people can enter certain businesses does not deter the unvaccinated from trying,” Lamb said.

“[We] absolutely support measures that keep the public safe and allow the economy to keep reopening, but if non-essential retailers are being asked to only allow entry to those fully vaccinated, they need the necessary support to enforce this rule.

“Customer aggression towards retail staff has gone off the charts throughout the pandemic [and] from tomorrow, non-essential retail workers will be the ones copping the brunt of abuse from unvaccinated Victorians.”

According to the Shops, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, one in four retail employees were verbally abused last year, while one in five were coughed or spat on by a customer.

“This is vile at any time, but unforgivable during a pandemic,” SDA secretary Bernie Smith said.

Australian Retailers Association boss Paul Zahra has asked the Victorian Government to provide a clear outlook on what the next few months of retail will look like – including an end date for proof of vaccination checks.

“Retailers [had] to scramble to ensure they’re ready to comply with the new restrictions for [today]’s trade – well ahead of the original 24 November deadline,” Zahra said.

“[They’re also] busily preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and are only 36 days away from Christmas… with a skills crisis reducing resources during this critical trading period, the timing is unfortunate.”

Zahra pointed to the clarity around when retailers in New South Wales, which have been doing vaccine checks since October, and which know when they will no longer need to check – at 95 per cent vaccination, or December 15, whichever comes first – as an example of the type of clear guidelines the Victorian Government could institute.

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