COVID-19 is not an excuse for abuse


These tough times are resulting in some appalling behaviour towards retail and fast food workers, but you shouldn’t have to put up with customer abuse or violence.


The past few weeks, and even months, have been tough for all Aussies, as we struggle to grasp with these unprecedented times of uncertainly and concerns for our collective health. With new health measures and national infection statistics emerging daily, many are finding it hard not to be swept up in the panic. As we’ve seen, the effect of this national anxiety has resulted in thousands of customers going on panic-buying frenzies, resulting in empty shelves where everything from toilet paper to rice once stood.


However, even more alarming, is the human behaviour that we have seen emerge from these shopping trips. Just a few months ago, Australians were uniting to support one another through the aftermath of devastating bushfires; today our news feeds are filled with footage of customer verbally and physically abusing not only each other, but the staff who are working tirelessly to accommodate high demands and provide the best customer service they can. This is not okay.


No amount of stress, no extent of shopping chaos and certainly no shortage of any supermarket product can justify customer abuse. All workers have the right to feel safe at work.


The SDA’s No One Deserves a Serve campaign was launched in 2017 after an online survey of thousands of retail and fast food workers found that:


  • More than 85% of respondents have been subjected to verbal abuse from a customer in the last 12 months.
  • 25% were subjected to verbal abuse every week.
  • 15% have experienced physical violence from a customer.


No One Deserves A Serve targets the issue of customer abusing staff in their workplaces and calls on employers to follow the SDA’s zero-tolerance approach to customer abuse.


The display of behaviour we have seen from customers over the last few weeks shows that we still have a long way to go. More promising, however, is the number of employers, including Woolworths, who are stepping up their efforts to protect workers and eliminate customer abuse and violence through signage, badges, in-store audio announcements and better training for staff and managers.


The SDA is committed to stopping customer abuse and violence in the retail and fast food industries and building better protections for workers. The SDA is here to support you if you have experienced abuse or violence by a customer at work.


How can you get involved?


  1. Report it


If you or a colleague experience customer abuse in the workplace ensure you report it to your manager and where appropriate, log it in the incident report log with your safety officer.


  1. Ask your employer to support the campaign


Customer abuse is a Work Health and Safety issue, your employer has a duty of care to have policies and procedures in place to provide you with a safe and healthy workplace. Encourage them to display No One Deserves a Serve signs and ask for their support in dealing with difficult situations.


  1. Spread the word and show your support


Show your support for the No One Deserves A Serve campaign.

Share our video There’s no Excuse for Abuse with your colleagues, friends and family.

Follow the SDA Newcastle and Northern Facebook page and Instagram pages to stay up-to-date.

Join the SDA Union Members official Facebook group to connect with your fellow retail and fast food workers.


Encourage the conversation. Speak up. Together we are stronger.

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