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“Intolerable”: One in five retail workers have been coughed at this year

One in four retail employees have copped verbal abuse every week this year, while one in five have been coughed or spat on by a customer hoping to scare (or infect) the worker, according to the SDA’s ongoing survey of retail abuse.

Of the 2,300 SDA members that completed the review, almost 88 per cent had been verbally abused in the last 12 months, while almost 8 per cent had been physically abused.

The union said that while the abuse is experienced all year round, this year saw an increase in unacceptable behaviour in the face of panic buying during the pandemic.

“No one understands better than retail workers that the festive season can be stressful, even more so during this year of the pandemic, but that is no excuse to threaten shop staff with abuse or violence,” said SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer.

“This is simply unacceptable – retail workers have been risking their health and safety so that you and your families get to enjoy the festive season… It is intolerable. It must not continue.”

The survey found that abuse and violence toward retail staff has become more common during the year, as the pandemic waxes and wanes, and that staff that were subject to abuse and violence said it caused them stress (76.5 per cent), anxiety (72.62 per cent), burnout (39.2 per cent) and sleeplessness (36.1 per cent).

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