Supermarket staff cop customer abuse

6th August 2021 | Eativity editors

NSW Police has advised Sydney supermarkets they must monitor their entrances to ensure customer compliance with QR code check-ins, mask-wearing and other COVID safety measures, but workers fear this will only further exacerbate an already volatile situation which has seen several staff physically assaulted by customers.

Supermarkets are now required to have a staff member stationed at the entrance to “encourage” shoppers to check in. While shop staff strongly support the use of QR codes and wearing of masks to help keep themselves, staff and fellow shoppers safe, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) – the union for retail, fast food and warehouse workers – stresses that it’s not the workers’ job to enforce compliance.

It is now mandatory for customers to check in and check out at all retails stores in NSW.

“Shop workers support the use of QR codes and the wearing of masks to limit the spread of the virus,” says SDA NSW Secretary Bernie Smith. “But they are not police officers or bouncers; it’s not their job to make sure shoppers comply with government orders.”

COVID transmission continues to occur at supermarkets and other retail outlets, with frontline retail workers placing themselves at risk so the community can access food and other essential goods. However, it’s not just the risk of contracting COVID that has workers feeling anxious and fearful – staff at supermarkets are increasingly facing abuse from angry customers who are irritated by these simple and sensible safety measures.

Last week, a Sydney supermarket worker on the door was assaulted and punched in the face three times. Another staff member in Shellharbour on the NSW South Coast was also assaulted by a customer while working at the shop entrance. NSW Police Minister David Elliott has responded by saying that if supermarkets believe their staff are at risk, they should employ security guards. Many, including ALDI, have now done so.

Woolworths recently trialled body cams as a measure to reduce customer abuse and violence in stores.

“Shop workers are on turning up to work, day-in day-out, to serve the community and keep people provided with fresh food and the other essentials of life,” Smith says.

“No worker should be abused for doing their job. Shop workers appreciate the support they are getting from NSW Police, but the NSW government must remember that it’s the role of the police to maintain public order – not shop workers.”

Supermarket workers are there to serve the community to make sure they get the food they need and the other essentials of life. QR code check-ins, the wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing in supermarkets and retails outlets helps keep people safe.

“Do the right thing when you next do your essential shopping,” Smith urges. “For yourself, for your family and for workers and their families.”