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‘It is intolerable’: Aussies warned against brutal shopping act

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
People shop at a Woolworths supermarket in Sydney on March 17, 2020. - Australia's elderly were let in early to supermarkets on March 17, but coronavirus panic buying still proved too much in some areas, with reports of empty shelves and large queues. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)
Shoppers have been told to cut the abuse. (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

Panicked Christmas shoppers and others stuck in lockdown have been warned that frayed nerves are no excuse for abusing retail and hospitality workers.

The national retail and hospitality union, the SDA, has issued a stern warning to rude shoppers on Monday as the countdown to Christmas shortens.

“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,” SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said.

“Abuse can severely impact the physical and psychological health of retail and fast food workers. It is intolerable. It must not continue. Everyone has the right to do their job in a safe environment.”

An SDA survey found that nearly 90 per cent of retail workers have suffered verbal abuse, while one quarter of them are spoken to rudely or in a threatening manner at least once a week.

Additionally, one fifth of respondents said they had been coughed or spat on during Covid-19.

Respondents said the abusive behaviour had increased during lockdown, while 77 per cent of those who had experienced it said it had caused stress and another 73 per cent said it caused anxiety.

More than one third said it was causing sleeplessness and burnout.

“This festive season we’re calling on customers to check their behaviour before they get to the checkout,” Dwyer said.

“No one deserves a serve while they are just trying to do their job.”

The union’s warning comes after Sydney’s Northern Beaches were sent into a three-day lockdown as the region battles a sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases, rising to 70 on Sunday.

The growing cluster sparked shoppers to clear Woolworths and Coles shelves in some stores across Sydney.

“We’ll continue to keep a close eye on demand and our stock levels,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“We ask customers to buy only what they need, as we have plenty of stock to replenish our shelves.”

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