The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association will hold a national industry roundtable in March 2018, to progress its campaign of ending abuse and violence towards retail and fast food workers.
After launching its campaign in response to SDA research involving 6,000 retail and fast food workers – which found that over 85 per cent of them had experienced abuse from customers at work – SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer there is no excuse for the increasing amount of physical and verbal abuse that customers are directing at retail and fast food staff.
“Imagine going to work every day knowing you will probably be abused,” he said.
“That’s the reality for thousands of Australian retail and fast food workers and it’s completely unacceptable, not just at Christmas but all year round.”
“Retail and fast food workers have told us they routinely have customers swearing and yelling at them, spitting in their faces or threatening them, simply for doing their jobs.”
“For retail and fast food workers this abuse can severely impact their physical and psychological health and it cannot continue. Everyone has the right to be able to do their job in a safe environment.”
Real stories to emerge from SDA’s research include workers being slapped in the face and choked; and being held up with a syringe.
“I’ve had a man run at me carrying a sword while I was changing promotional boards, mistaking me for another person,” said one worker. “I’ve had a young male rush to punch me in the face after I refused to sell alcohol to him and his friends. I’ve had a group of young boys harass customers, staff and myself by throwing rotten fruit at us. I’ve been spat on during a theft incident. I’ve had people threaten to harm me and my staff after we’ve refused service due to intoxication.”
Lawrence, a retail worker in Western Sydney said customer abuse was a common experience for him.
“I’ve had people say things like ‘’I’ll meet you out the front’ threatening to fight me. One customer became angry at me and said, I do MMA (mixed martial arts), I could bash you up.”
“I’ve witnessed a colleague get pulled over the counter by an angry customer.”
“Customers get more and more angry as it gets closer to Christmas. Just a couple of weeks ago I had a customer become extremely irate at me, because we had sold out of the item he wanted. He was blaming me and yelling that it was my fault.”
SDA said 24 per cent of respondents subjected to verbal abuse say it happens every week while 51 per cent of respondents said no action was taken after they reported an incident.
Dwyer said that while retail and fast food workers were trained to provide good customer service, this did not extend to tolerating verbal or physical abuse.
“The fact is, the customer is not always right. Abusing retail and fast food workers is wrong. No-one deserves a serve while they are just trying to do their job.”
“This Christmas we’re calling on customers to check their behaviour before they get to the checkout.”
“In addition to this major public awareness campaign to change public attitudes and behaviour, the SDA is looking drive industry changes to ensure that customers can’t continue this behaviour and build better protections for retail and fast food workers.”
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